Thursday, August 13, 2009

I say chimp, you say orang; let's call the whole thing off!

There is an ongoing debate among scholars of human evolution regarding which living primate is most closely related to humans: chimpanzee or orangutan. The question boils down to: Which of these primates do we share a more recent common ancestor with?

The molecular and geographical evidence suggests chimpanzees as our closest relatives; the orangutan argument is built primarily from shared morphological traits. In either case, what we have are competing hypotheses, neither of which has been definitively falsified as of now.

It's an important issue in human evolution, but that didn't stop The Daily Show with Jon Stewart from tackling it. Enjoy!

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Human's Closest Relative
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1 comment:

  1. Ron:

    As iusual, I came a little late to this. But except for a few people(at least at the moment), there's not much of a debate about this, IMO. Those who favor the "orangutan theory" seem to privilge morphology over molecules, and the results are, well, ambiguous. And while I think there are problems with too much reliance on "genetics" as a way of saying who is descended from whom((morphology and "genetics" can both tell you valuable things about ancestor-descendant relationsho[s and about relationships within and between species in general), but both can be ambiguous and at present, the "orangutan" people haven't, to my mind, made a definitive case. Yet. That said, I'm perfectly willing to rethink things if they start getting more solid lines of evidence for their case.
    Anne G


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