Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Human, Animal connection

It's probably not news to you, but some researches believe that the human animal connection may have been an important component to the development of humans as a species.

"Every mouthful you feed to another species is one that your own children do not eat. On the face of it, caring for another species is maladaptive, so why do we humans do this?"

Shipman suggests that the animal connection was prompted by the invention of stone tools 2.6-million years ago. "Having sharp tools transformed wimpy human ancestors into effective predators who left many cut marks on the fossilized bones of their prey," Shipman said. Becoming a predator also put our ancestors into direct competition with other carnivores for carcasses and prey. As Shipman explains, the human ancestors who learned to observe and understand the behavior of potential prey obtained more meat. "Those who also focused on the behavior of potential competitors reaped a double evolutionary advantage for natural selection," she said.

Over time, Shipman explains, the volume of information about animals increased, the evolutionary benefits of communicating this knowledge to others increased, and language evolved as an external means of handling and communicating information through symbols. "Though we cannot discover the earliest use of language itself, we can learn something from the earliest prehistoric art with unambiguous content. Nearly all of these artworks depict animals. Other potentially vital topics -- edible plants, water, tools or weapons, or relationships among humans -- are rarely if ever shown," Shipman said. She sees this disproportion as evidence that the evolutionary pressure to develop an external means of storing and transmitting information -- symbolic language -- came primarily from the animal connection.

Shipman concludes that detailed information about animals became so advantageous that our ancestors began to nurture wild animals -- a practice that led to the domestication of the dog about 32,000 years ago.

Read the rest here.

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