Modern Non-Human Primates
Over the years, evolutionary biology has developed into an area of study that attracts the attention of not only paleontologists and anthropologists but virtually all scholars within the disciplines of science. Anthropology in particular has continued to arouse the imagination of scholars, who, in turn, have tried to learn more about the phenomena surrounding the concept of evolution. However, the scarcity of resources has proved to be a significant obstacle in this pursuit. Research has shown that the use of models is an effective way of investigating non-observable aspects of history. For instance, in order to comprehend the behavior of early hominine, researcher may use the present-day samples that are related by virtue of belonging to the same taxonomic units. Early hominine were the early primates that went extinct many years ago. Their extinction made it difficult to study them. However, with the use of the modern non-human primates, it is possible to deduce their social behavior. Due to their body size, habitats, social systems, and food sources, Chimpanzees are the modern non-human primates that work best as a model for early hominin social behaviors.
If to analyze and compare the lifestyles and physical characteristics of various modern non-human primates, Chimpanzees appear to be the best models for the early hominin social behaviors. This is evidenced by the fact that they share similar characteristic features with the earliest ancestors in terms of habitat, feeding habits, social strategies, and body sizes. Today, for example, chimpanzees reside in the natural forests of Senegal, a country in West Africa. However, these animals are becoming extinct due to the hunting for bush meat by the locals and deforestation. A study conducted by Kay (1981) shows that both chimpanzees and early hominine exhibit similar characteristics in terms of their natural habitat. Scientific evidence shows that the habitat of early hominine was the natural forests, in which they executed most of their activities. This implies that in terms of habitat, chimpanzees can serve as a model for identifying and studying the social behavior of early hominine. The extinction of early hominine was partly caused by industrialization, which involved deforestation, a phenomenon that is being experienced in present-day West Africa (Haslam et al., 2009). The destruction of the modern chimpanzee’s natural habitat is one of the causes of their extinction as well, similar to the case of early hominine, which makes them an effective model for studying early humans.
Further, the body sizes of pygmy chimpanzees vary, with males being more muscular and larger than females. Male chimpanzees have well established strong canines that enable them to protect the members of their group in case of an attack by predators. This is a vivid example of their social behavior. Similar to them, early hominine males had large body sizes compared to their female counterparts (Cachel, 2006). Same as male chimpanzees, early hominine males protected the members of their society. Therefore, early hominine have common ancestry with the selected non-human primates, which makes the latter an appropriate model for researching the social behavior of the former.
However, the issue of sexuality in the non-human primates is quite different from the way early hominine perceived it. For instance, pygmy chimpanzee males are polygamous in nature, and they are not limited to one female partner (Cachel, 2006). However, female chimpanzees are mostly monogamous. They practice courtship during pairing. Females attract males when they undergo estrus during the mating period. In contrast, early hominine females did not experience estrus, therefore limiting their male counterparts to have a long time relationship with them. This is the only aspect of social behavior that suggests that it may be wrong to use chimpanzees as a model for understanding the social behavior of early humans.
Since chimpanzees and early hominine share common ancestors, understanding some of their characteristics will help shed light on a number of aspects about early hominin social behavior. For instance, the chimpanzees’ feeding habits and sources of food have been an area of study for the past few decades. Chimpanzees mainly eat meat, fruits, and leaves. They obtain meat by hunting monkeys in the forest, and they use sharp stones to kill them and tear meat from the bones. In the case of early hominine, modern technology allows to identify their feeding habits by examining their fossilized remains. This has made it possible to examine the teeth of early hominine and highlight the striking similarities they have with chimpanzees. The studies reveal that the two exhibit the same feeding habits and similar sources of food. This implies that early hominine obtained meat from hunting as well, which proves that their social behavior used to be similar to that of the chimpanzees’. In addition, the tooth structure of a chimpanzee shows that it is subject to wear and tear, a characteristic that is evident in the early hominine. Other than meat, fruits, and leaves, chimpanzees also feed on small insects, which might be a habit early hominine did not possess. The structure of an insect’s skeleton makes it a suitable source of food for chimpanzees, however (Stanford, Allen, & Anton, 2012).
The average height of a chimpanzee is approximately 1.2 meters, although female are slightly shorter. The length of its arms is greater than that of its feet. The size of a chimpanzee gives substantial justification for choosing it as a model for hominin behavior. In order to clearly show the resemblance, it is important to revisit the body structure of early hominine. Despite the fact that the body of early humans was hairy, their face, feet, and arms were hairless, same as in the case of chimpanzees. Additionally, chimpanzees have long and strong arms due to adaptation to their habitat. However, while on the ground, chimpanzees use both their hands and feet for movement. The weight of an average adult chimpanzee is 70 kilograms. Their arms are long enough to support this weight while they move from tree to tree in their natural habitat. When on the ground, this weight is supported by both feet and arms. Chimpanzees do not have tails, unlike some of the other modern non-human primates. In addition, the color of their faces varies depending on the species: some have a pink and others have a dark complexion. Younger chimpanzees tend to have a lighter complexion than their mature counterparts (Berthelet & Chavaillon, 1993). The factors mentioned above prove that chimpanzees have much in common with early hominine in terms of body size and outer appearance, which may be useful when utilizing chimpanzees as a model for early hominin social behavior.
The ways in which chimpanzees carry out their day-to-day activities comprise their social behavior system. For example, chimpanzees undertake hunting as a social activity. Male chimpanzees are tasked with the duty of hunting while females look after the young. Hunting groups have a leader who makes decisions regarding where and how to conduct the hunting. This proves that chimpanzees have a form of government (Davidson & McGrew, 2005). In addition, chimpanzees have a form of sharing the natural forest, which is their habitat. They also move their hunting tools and keep them in strategic places in order to ease their hunting activities. Other than dividing the forest and strategically positioning their tools, chimpanzees also make sure that every member of their group is taken care of. Moreover, the communities within which chimpanzees live are headed by the one who has the greatest influence over other members, which is quite similar to the way early hominine organized their tribes. Another social activity chimpanzees exhibit is nut cracking using special tools. The resource exploitation strategies applied by chimpanzees during nut cracking have a way of influencing their social system in one way or another (Kay, 1981).
In conclusion, chimpanzees are the modern non-human primates that work best as a model for early hominin social behavior. This is because chimpanzees exhibit many characteristics and behaviors similar to those of early humans. For instance, chimpanzees inhabit natural forests and make use of their strong arms to move from one tree to another. Hunting and gathering are their main sources of food, and the resource exploitation strategies employed partially reflect those of the early hominine. The use of stones to cut flesh from bones and to crack nuts are the activities that have been used by early hominine as well. The hunting and gathering activities by the chimpanzees plays a significant role in influencing their social systems. The anatomy of chimpanzees is another structural feature that reflects their resemblance to early hominine. Therefore, it is evident that the habitat, sources of food, body size, and the social system of chimpanzees is to similar to that of early hominine a great extent, and that is why the selected modern non-human primate is the best model for early hominin social behavior.