Monkey business

 When asked their opinion about human evolution, some people will answer: “I cannot accept that we came from monkeys.”

We should all agree with that sentiment. Humans are no monkeys. But we are part of the Primate Order.

In an earlier blog  I wrote about Carl von Linné to  and his way of classifying plants and animals using observable traits.

Under the Linnaean system, human beings belong to the Primate Order. Within this Order, there are two sub-units, referred to as suborders: the Prosimians and the Anthropoids.

Fans of the movie Madagascar ought to be very familiar with Prosimians, a family that includes lemurs and lorises.

Anthropoids include New World monkeys (such as marmosets, tamarins, capuchin monkeys, howler  and spider monkeys) as well as Old World monkeys, apes and humans (such as baboons, colobuses, gibbons, siamangs, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos and humans).

All of the animals just mentioned are still with us. Each one of these is subject to evolutionary pressures and some (like us humans) are flourishing and others (like chimps and gorillas) face ever-diminishing natural habitats.

But this all relates to the present. How does it apply to the past?

Together with gibbons, siamangs, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos, humans are members of the Superfamily of Hominoidea (a.k.a. apes and humans). The classification of humans and apes into this Superfamily reflects a common ancestor in a distant past.

Moreover, recent DNA studies comparing human genetic information with that of other non-human primates has shown a high degree of genetic similarity. For example, DNA from a modern human is close to 99% identical to that of contemporary chimpanzees. This further supports descent from a common ancestor.

Next time you hear a remark about humans evolving from monkeys, you can set the record straight: one species did not come from the other. Humans and apes simply share a common ancestor.

No monkey business required.