Humans and Primates

Human and large apes, such as chimpanzees, share 98.77% of their DNA, but there are still big differences. A recent study published in the scientific quarterly, Journal of Anthropological Research, explored what makes us different, what we have in common, and why it is important. According to the study, authored by Agustín Fuentes of the University of Notre Dame, the human lineage underwent significant changes during the Pleistocene —some two million years ago— resulting in the development of a human niche, where our human ancestors succeeded in mastering fire, domesticating animals, making tools, and teaching and learning, thus giving them the unique and distinctive ability to drastically affect their environment, other animals, and themselves. Fuentes says that creative cooperation, the ability to communicate, and collaboration made it possible for us to invent technology, the economy, and large societies, as well as religious beliefs, ethics, and art. These abilities, which define us as human beings, he says, are the same ones we have used to kill each other and to devastate the planet, but they are precisely the tools we need to ensure our survival and the sustainability of our environment.