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Characteristics of the Order Primate Exploratory Essay

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Updated: Jul 3rd, 2019

Primate is a mammal that belongs to the Order Primates. They ascended from predecessors that lived on trees in the tropical forests. This is evident in the characters of many primates. Order Primates are traditionally divided into two groups namely anthropoids/ simians and prosimians. Prosimians are more similar to earliest primates; they include lemurs of tarsiers, lorisiforms and Madagascar.

On the other hand, Simians include humans, apes and monkeys. Primates possess numerous characteristics which make them hard to classify. Scientists have found it hard to categorize early primates and mammals. Bats and tree shrews primates are close existing relatives of order primates.

Generalist teeth, forward-facing eyes, complicated social organization and opposable thumbs are some of the characteristics that can be used to define order Primates. As stated above, human beings (Homo sapiens) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) belong to the group of primates known as Simians.

The following is a description of some of the similarities and differences that exist between humans and chimpanzees and the most significant traits that each possesses taking into consideration the above four traits used to differentiate Primates.

Humans are taxonomically known as Homo sapiens while chimpanzee is a common name for species of apes which belong to the genus Pan. Human beings have a high brain capacity that is highly developed which gives them the capability to reason, introspect, language and solve problems.

Humans have an erect body with hands which enable them to manipulate objects. This is why humans are considered to have made greater tools on earth as compared to other species such as chimpanzees (Stein 120).

Humans have complex social structures which are composed of competing and cooperative groups from nations to families. Human social interactions have established wide variety of social norms, rituals and values. All these composition make up human society composed of large number of individuals spread all over the continent.

Chimpanzees too have a social structure; however, they are not as complex as that of humans. Chimpanzees have a large number of multi-female and male social groups referred to as communities (Stein 210).

They have definite social hierarchy within the community which is usually dictated by an individual who has high influence on other chimpanzees. Just like humans, chimpanzees have a leaner hierarchy whereby an individual has the authority to dominate those from the lower ranks.

The Alpha male is a dominant male in the community who controls the community and maintains order when there is dispute. This is more similar to what happens in the most human societies.

Human face is perceived to be finely tuned. Both the chimpanzees and humans have forward-facing eyes. However, when comparing faces between the two species, it is important to consider observable judgements that people make. Most of the times, many people have categorized facial expression of humans and chimpanzees based on emotions. However, this is not always correct.

According to a study conducted by anthropologists, most primates have bared-teeth display. It was proposed by anthropologists that this is the homologue of human smile (Stein 219). The study displayed that there is a difference in bared-teeth display of chimpanzees and that of humans in relation to emotional valence which was used to judge the faces of the two species.

However, when the bared-teeth display of chimpanzee was interpreted to be fearful, many people underestimated the degree of relationship among certain features such as extent to which the corner of the lips rise and that of human smile.

Human beings have the capability to point with their index finger. In contrast, chimpanzees do not have the ability to point using their index finger; they rarely point with their arms or hands as a gesture like humans do. This means that humans and chimpanzees have opposing thumbs.

Of the four characteristics of chimpanzees and humans, forward is the most significant character that can be used to define the order primates since other animals do not have thumbs that are similar to those of primates.

Works Cited

Stein, Phillip. Physical Anthropology. McGraw: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages, 2010.

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