• Question: how exactly did we evolve from monkeys/baboons

    Asked by finnlankester to Claire, Renata, Suzanne on 27 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Renata Medeiros

      Renata Medeiros answered on 27 Jun 2013:

      The fossil record includes lots of examples of intermediate stages between monkeys and humans. It is no longer the case that we are looking for some kind of “missing link”, because most of the links that were missing in Charles Darwin’s time have now been discovered in the form of fossils. A good overview of the evolutionary transition from monkeys to humans is at:

      The transition from monkeys to humans involved quite a lot of different evolutionary adaptations, including…
      – walking upright on 2 legs
      – delayed maturity (we take a very long time to become adult)
      – a very big brain
      – intelligence, consciousness, tool use and complex language

      The exact manner on which these human traits arose and became combined are still being investigated, through several methods:
      – discoveries of fossil humans, and fossil non-human primates
      – comparisons of the anatomy and behaviour of modern humans with modern non-human primates
      – comparison of human language and non-spoken body-language, with equivalent traits in non-human primates

      These studies are resulting in new discoveries every year, and we are still discovering more and more abut what it means to be human, and how humans evolved from monkeys and intermediate forms of non-human primates.

    • Photo: Suzanne Harvey

      Suzanne Harvey answered on 28 Jun 2013:

      This is a really good question – it’s important to remember that we didn’t actually evolve from monkeys as we know them, but from an ancient species that evolved into both us and monkeys separately. Everything you see on earth right now is at the pinnacle of evolution, we tend to think that we are the most evolved, but actually everything has been evolving for the same amount of time!

      The last common ancestor of humans and baboons lived around 30 million years ago. After that, two separate species evolved (probably from groups becoming separated physically, like by a river, and adapting to different environments). One of these species became the human lineage, and one the baboon lineage. A lot more changes happened along both of those paths, but eventually one led to modern baboons, and one modern humans 🙂