Primates Are More Cognitively Advanced Term Paper

Pages: 7 (2401 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 8  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Animals

Vocalizations of apes contain semantic detail about social relations as well as external threats. Chimpanzees give food-calls in the wild that attract others; in captivity they can lead others to hidden food, and convey its quality. Apes deliberately deceive others, concealing both food and sex and even fake facial expressions or erections. The capacities to give or withhold information and to be aware of others' intentions may be pre-requisites for the capacity to form ideas (ibid).

The most primitive hominids had a brain size of 400 to 600, much less than was previously expected. Hominids from two million years ago shared food between the sexes and ages, had a sexual division of labor, and a family main unit. Men hunted and scavenged meat.

In 2001, researchers found a six- to seven-million-year-old skull in Chad that sends back the earliest hominid millions of years. They designated Touma, which displays a mix of both chimpanzee-like and human-like characteristics, a new species and genus of hominid, Sahelanthropus tchadensis. The most striking features of S. tchadensis are its tiny brain combined with a huge brow ridge and a very short, non-snouty face -- unlike the face of a chimp or australopithecine (Meek).

Touma likely lived between a lake and desert, moving through a diverse landscape of grassland and forest in search of food. Questions still exist on whether it was bipedal or if it was a hominid dead-end, type of ape or truly a homo sapiens ancestor.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Primates Are More Cognitively Advanced Assignment

There is a wealth of information on primate cognitive evolution, including that which was used for this paper. From the present information on primate evolution, it is possible to see a continuum in brain and social development from the prosimians to the hominids and to today's humans. However, it must be stressed that little is known about the cognitive capacities of the majority of primate species (Tamasello, 1997, p.17). There are 180 different species and only a few have been researched. Add to this the fact that there is great diversity between and among species. A related problem is that primates are studied by fossils, in the wild and in labs (ibid). These approaches are very different. When going to the zoo, I gave much thought to how similar or different the animals' behavior would be in the wild if studied today or if studied millions of years ago.

Other problems include the definition of intelligence and to what degree each of the primates have shown cognitive abilities. Some individuals in this field of study have come up with a universally acceptable definition of intelligence such as the ability to use language or create tools to manipulate the environment. By placing parameters on intelligence that only humans meet, and lower primates fit to varying degrees, it is inherently impossible to find intelligence in any other species. Another problem with this humanist definition of intelligence is that it is based largely on human introspection and the knowledge that humans are conscious, rational, linguistic animals. Kenneth Marable argues "if the same criterion that are used to rule out non-human intelligence were applied to humans without the benefit of introspection, we would doubt even our own intelligence"

Using the size of the brain either in cubic centimeters, encephalization quotient or in terms of neocortex development also presents a problem. A particular example is the spiny anteater with a neocortex that is relatively much larger than a human's. Cortical folding has the same problem, with the dolphin having more folding than humans.

Another concern is trying to find one cause for cognitive growth. Evidence can be found for supporting a number of theories from foraging to tool use and meat eating.

It appears evident there cannot be one definition of intelligence or one causality theory.

Individuals such as Tomasello agree with this paper's thesis that it is important to look at a number of parameters when defining intelligence and determining cause for cognitive growth. For future study, Tomasello suggests (431): Instead of looking at a unidimensional definition of intelligence, have an approach of cognitive ethology "in which we look first at the adaptive problems faced by a particular species or set of species and then at the ways they have evolved to face them." Additionally, researchers should look at both the physical and social theories of cognition. Those working in the field as well as those in the laboratories must compare their findings and understand the benefit of both approaches, researchers should broaden the species that are studied and that consumers, educators and scientists alike find ways to eliminate possible extinction of today's primates so the study of these animals can continue.

Works Cited

Ciochon Russel L. & Fleagle, John G. (1985). Primate Evolution and Human Origins. Menlo Park, CA: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing.

Else, James G. & Lee. Phyllis C. (1986). Primate Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fleagle, John G. (1999). Primate Adaptation and Evolution. New York: Academic Press.

Jones, Steve, Martin Robert & Pilbeam, David (Eds). (1992). Human Evolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Marable, Kenneth. (n.d.). The Neurological and Environmental Basis for Differing Intelligences: A Comparison of Primate and Cetacean Mentality. Retrieved May 22, 2003, at

Meek, James. (October 2001). Monkey or man? Toumai, hailed as our oldest ancestor, is stirring ancient scientific rivalries. Retrieved May 20, 2003 at,3604,808955,00.html

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