Congratulations: You are an ape. A “great ape,” technically. Alongside us in this brainy family of animals are four other living species: chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, and bonobos (formerly called “pygmy chimpanzees”). The biological gap between us and our great ape cousins is small. At last count, only 1.23 percent of our genes differ from those of chimpanzees. But mentally, the gap between us and them is a Grand Canyon.
On an average day in the life of the human species, we file thousands of patents, post tens of thousands of Internet videos, and think countless thoughts that have never been thought before. On a good day, chimpanzees are lucky to exploit rudimentary tried-and-true techniques, such as using stone tools to crack nuts.
Not only do we innovate more than the other great apes, we are vastly better at sharing ideas with one another. The majority of recent behavioral studies focus on information-transmission rather than invention. All of the great apes can learn new tricks by imitating a human or another ape. But only humans go one step further and routinely teacheach other. Teaching may be the signature skill of our species, and researchers are now zeroing in on three particular mental talents that make it possible.
Our DNA is less than 2 percent different from that of chimpanzees, so what is that makes humans so different from the great apes? Find out what our ape cousins can do — and what they can’t.
Video (Playlist): http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=C68538044D52A06C