• Question: why do people think that we, humans have evolved from chimps?

    Asked by ickyvicky to Amy, Drew, Julia, Kimberley, Sara on 15 Jun 2011. This question was also asked by chocoholiclea, kitana356, owens7r2, electricrose.
    • Photo: Sara Imari Walker

      Sara Imari Walker answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hi ickyvicky. Actually the idea that we evolved FROM chimps is a common misconception. What the real idea is that we evolved from a common ancestor with chimps. What’s the distinction? Well the process by which new species appear is called Darwinian evolution. All life on Earth has arisen through this process. The basic idea is that from generation to generation new forms of a creature might appear, and those can slowly deviate from the original animal (or plant or whatever) or many many many generations (like branches on a tree). Eventually making an entirely new species. So, chimps and humans share a ancestor that lived over 4 million years ago. Slowly over a very time we have become different species. To say we evolved from chimps is a misnomer as it implies that chimps are an older species than us. They may well be, but they are not our direct ancestor. Great question!!

    • Photo: Drew Rae

      Drew Rae answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Hi IckyVicky,
      Sara is absolutely right. I thought I’d chime in with where the ideas come from. The broad idea of evolution has been known for a long time, as far back as the Greek civilisation. Darwin came up with the idea of natural selection, which explains why evolution happens. At first, the best evidence was from the record of fossils, in particular the species between us (Homo Sapiens) and when we split in the evolutionary tree from the great apes. Then, there is evidence in our own bodies of things that we have in common with the great apes, but not in common with other animals.

      A lot of research of this type is now done with DNA. It’s too long to explain here, but you can compare DNA to draw quite precise maps of common ancestry, and where different splits in evolution happened.

    • Photo: Julia Griffen

      Julia Griffen answered on 14 Jun 2011:

      Because we share so many characteristics…ever seen a really hairy man on a beach…. there’s a gorilla right there 🙂

    • Photo: Amy MacQueen

      Amy MacQueen answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      As Sara said this is a common miconception – the theory or evolution as applied to human origins would suggest that we came from a common ancestor with chimpanzees – but not from them.

      As Drew said a lot of this analysis is now carried out using DNA mapping and profiling and ontogeny analysis by which people can say how “related” we are to something else. What must be borne in mind is that although our DNA is 96% similar to a chimpanzee that is only the “coding” DNA i.e. the genes that are expressed – by looking at a monkey we can tell this because we look more like them than a banana (with which we share 50%!) – it essentially means that we are made of the same stuff as a chimp.

      But the actual control of these genes by “non-coding DNA” is VERY different…which is why we are not chimps! So the % similarity of us and chimps drops considerably when you look at the DNA as a whole! DNA was only “discovered” as such in the 1940-50s and its epigenetic regulation (control) is being elucidated as we speak – we may discover and re-discover a lot about our ancestory in the years to come! 🙂

    • Photo: Kimberley Bryon

      Kimberley Bryon answered on 15 Jun 2011:

      As the others have said the idea that we have a common ancestor is to do with how similar our DNA is and also fossils which show man-chimp like species.