Don’t underestimate these monkeys – it turns out that our hands are more primitive than chimps’ hands. Why it is so has not so much to do with how we evolved and developed hands more suited for human activities, but with how we didn’t evolve.
Earlier studies believed that we owe the shape of our hands to the constant engineering of stone tools that very early humans partook in. This may be due to a certain type of cultural bias when doing research which tends to place us, surprisingly, on top of every list.
Well, apparently we don’t top the chart of the hands of the world. It seems that even our closest relatives, the chimpanzees and orangutans, with which we share common ancestry, have hands more evolved than ours.
To be able to come to these conclusions, Stony Brook University scientists used side-by-side comparisons of the hands of chimps, orangutans, humans, and also early ancestors of primates, like the Proconsul hesloni, and of humans, mainly the Ardipithecus ramidusm, or the Australopithecus sediba.
Kurtis Hiatt, of George Washington University said that the main distinctive marker of present day human hands was thought to be the relatively large (by comparison with the other four) opposable thumb. Yet, the researchers found was that this trait was also present in our prehistoric ancestors.
The opposable thumb is also present in present day gorillas. This has prompted the scientists to conclude that there have been to very different evolution courses for both humans and gorillas, and chimps and orangutans. The latter two evolved to be more of the tree-dwellers, while the former two developed (or “undeveloped”) in a way that would suit their grounded ways. It must be mentioned that it is a common misbelief that gorillas hang around in trees, while they only stand on branches about 5 to 20 percent of times.
The two distinct evolution paths have been determined, scientists say, by the Miocene extinction, which happened between 12 and 5 million years ago. The two groups each adapted to the changing world in their own way.
The ‘pad-to-pad precision grip’ technique specific to human hands is said to be our most important evolutionary advantage – and however important it may seem to us – it turns out, it’s not that evolutionary, as it may have been a trait in our ancestors long before we, the humans, walked this earth.
Image source: techtimes.com