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Friday, February 3, 2017

DID WE EVOLVE FROM CHIMPANZEES OR BONOBOS?

In the USA, evolution is hardly a given.  More Republicans don't believe in evolution than do:


Religious Differences on the Question of Evolution (United States)
Percentage who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origin of human life on earth
Buddhist
  
81%
Hindu
  
80%
Jewish
  
77%
Unaffiliated
  
72%
Catholic
  
58%
Orthodox
  
54%
Mainline Protestant
  
51%
Muslim
  
45%
Hist. Black Protest.
  
38%
Evang. Protestant
  
24%
Mormon
  
22%
Jehovah's Witnesses
  
8%
Total U.S. population percentage:48%
Source: Pew Forum[56]
Finally, another comparative poll:

Religions skew belief in evolution, and only about a third of Americans believe the scientific view of evolution.

But Americans are, relative to the developed world, very religious, and, next to Turkey, we are next to disbelieve in the concept of Darwin's evolution:


So the question of Homo sapiens descending from chimpanzees or bonobos is nonsense for a lot Americans.  Nevertheless, I'm taking the scientific path today and providing some analysis that has interested me for some time.

We all know what chimpanzees look like.  Surely, you're familiar with Cheetah, from Tarzen movies. He (yes, a male) acted from 1930 to 1968, and passed away six years ago at the age of 80.  Interestingly enough, Edgar Rice Burroughs never mentioned such an animal in his Tarzen novels.

Most of you have never seen a bonobo, face to face.  There are fewer than 50,000 of them, mostly in a small area of the Congo Basin


From a genomic paper comparing human, chimpanzee and bonobo:


We had a common ancestor from which we split 4.5 million years ago.  Then, about a million years ago bonobos and chimpanzees became separate, simply because they both don't swim, and the Congo River appeared.  As those circle diagrams show, we share common genes, and are only slightly different from each other.


I encountered my first bonobo at the Stuttgart Zoo thirty years ago.  I had never seen one before and I walked past a glass enclosure where a bonobo was sitting (actually sitting like we do on a chair), looking straight at me.  Stunned, I stopped and we communicated facially.  The bonobo has the physique of a human, relatively thin and gangly.

While genomic theory indicates we are linked to both, my sense is that we surely must be closer to the bonobo.  Chimpanzees just don't have the look and movement of humans.
Read this from Wikipedia:

Initial genetic studies characterised the DNA of chimpanzees and bonobos as being 98% to 99.4% identical to that of Homo sapiens.[19] Later studies showed that chimpanzees and bonobos are more closely related to humans than to gorillas.[20] In the crucial Nature paper reporting on initial genome comparisons, researchers identified 35 million single-nucleotide changes, five million insertion or deletion events, and a number of chromosomal rearrangements which constituted the genetic differences between the two Pan species and humans, covering 98% of the same genes.[21] 

While many of these analyses have been performed on the common chimpanzee rather than the bonobo, the differences between the two Pan species are unlikely to be substantial enough to affect the Pan-Homo comparison significantly.

A debatable position has been advanced that we humans should not be called Homo sapiens, but Pan sapiens.  A chimpanzee is Pan troglodytes and bonobo Pan paniscus.  More than a quarter century ago Jared Diamond published The Third Chimpanzee.   Here is an article on this forgotten ape.

Go visit a zoo and commune with bonobos.  Except, they are not easily found in captivity.    Only seven U.S. zoos feature them.

Your next option is to fly from your home town and end up in Kinshasa, then take a smaller plane to Mbandaka.  From there, it is a 2-3 day trip up the Congo, Lulanga, Maringa and Lomako Rivers by open canoe (actually called a pirogue).  Take a lot of sun block and insect repellents.    Then a 5-hour hike through the jungle, where the trail might be a foot wide, sometimes walking through knee-high water.  Be tightly dressed, for there are lots of biting ants.  And the rain.  After a night in a tent, you wake up at 3AM for a hike that could take 3 hours to Bonobo nests before they wake up.  You will wait in silence.

Keep in mind that the Democratic Republic of Congo is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.    However, 18 countries are worse:

1. North Korea and Somalia (tied)
2. Afghanistan
3. Sudan
4. Angola and South Sudan (tied)
5. Iraq and Libya (tied)
6. Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Venezuela (tied)
7. Eritrea, Syria, Turkmenistan and Yemen (tied)
8. Uzbekistan
9. Burundi, Cambodia and Zimbabwe (tied)
10. Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar (tied)

Credit cards and travelers checks are useless.  Relative to Kenya and South Africa, the DR of C is a totally different kind of experience.
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