Homo sapien Cousins


Pan paniscus consoling

They are deeply social. Very intelligent. Use various tools. Build homes for their family. Very often share food and adopt the young of others. Communicate with remarkable frequency and animated gestures, including laughter. Protect their homeland fiercely. Hunt and kill other lower-class species. And have a fascination for solving puzzles and problems.Who are they? Many would cautiously guess us… humans. That would be very close.

No, the correct answer would be the Hominids known as Panina or chimpanzees. Not only do our chimpanzee cousins exhibit common intelligence and social behaviour with us humans, but in a few areas they are surprisingly diverse or adaptive like humans. How exactly? Besides the nine or ten close similarities already listed above, a subgroup of chimpanzees, called Pan paniscus, also have non-monogamous and non-heterosexual relationships just like humans! Primatologist have discovered that P. paniscus or Bonobos, possess a distinct social behaviour not found in P. troglodyte groups; a more aggressive and violent group of chimpanzees. Frankly, Bonobos chimps have a more advanced degree of anger management skills or impulse control than common chimps. This is because of the differences between amygdala-to-VAC-cortex brain connection in Bonobos compared to the thinner smaller connection found in the P. troglodyte brains.

The panina hominids (chimps) have almost an identical genetic DNA make-up to us humans; close to 95% identical! This is the closest out of all known living species on Earth, so they are truly our close cousins. Dr. Susan Block, of Yale University and a popular sexologist, says:

“At first, I just couldn’t get over how similar they look to us — like hairy people with longer arms — then I saw they have a lot of sex, very much like humans, but without all the pretense, hypocrisy and shame. When I learned they make peace through pleasure, I realized that ‘oh my god these close kissing cousins of ours just might hold the keys to a world without war.'”

Dr. Block is also an advocate for saving the endangered Bonobos through her book, The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure. A portion of the proceeds go to paniscus conservation.

Go back to the larger group of common chimps, P. troglodytes, and there are several other fascinating similarities. Dr. Christopher Ryan, author of Sex at Dawn: Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality, writes “If you look at us as a species, we’re not very impressive. What we’re good at is forming complex social networks.” And that right there makes us so similar to both our troglodyte and paniscus cousins…

Peace through pleasure? Ways of managing our anger and impulses? More empathy for others? More ingenious collaboration for the betterment of humanity? What’s not to like about any of that!? Seriously!

How similar do you find our chimpanzee cousins? Where and when are our behaviours remarkably alike? Share your answers below.

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