We unravel some common misconceptions about the natural world
“HUMANS EVOLVED FROM CHIMPANZEES”
Although there are similarities between humans and chimpanzees, such as opposable thumbs and facial features, but chimps didn’t just shed their fur and start making fires. We are, however, genetically related to chimps through our common ancestors, along with other great apes like gorillas and bonobos.
The first sign of primates on Earth dates back to around 55 million years ago (MYA). Then, from a common ancestor, chimps and humans split into two distinct genetic timelines between 8–6 MYA, although a more recent study suggests that divergence may have occurred up to 13 MYA. Our primate cousins continued to evolve into the apes we see today, whereas others evolved into the group known as Hominini, of which we are the only surviving species. Chimpanzees remained in the group Hominoidea, which divides over 20 species between great apes such as orangutans and lesser apes such as gibbons.
It was around 5.8 MYA that one of our proposed ancestors — Orrorin tugenensis — walked on two legs, despite closely resembling a chimpanzee. About 4 MYA, our prehistoric species developed a brain more representative of the Homo sapiens we are today — these more advanced ancestors were Australopithecus afarensis. Our use of tools dates back some 2.6 MYA, regularly used by Homo habilis and Homo erectus, who around 1.8 MYA, was the first to stand up straight.
Though we started our evolutionary journey together, chimps and humans evolved alongside one another rather than us descending from them.
“Chimps and humans evolved alongside one another, rather than us descending from them”