44th human-orangutan synapomorphy

Richard Jensen rjensen at SAINTMARYS.EDU
Fri Jan 14 04:16:44 CST 2005

I suggest that mechanical ability is a plesiomorphy, having arisen much earlier in the animal kingdom.  Certain canids and felids illustrate great problem-solving ability and felids in particular are quite adept at manipulating objects (e.g., opening cupboards, sliding latches, and other similar tasks).  Octopi are also well-known for their ability to solve problems, e.g., figuring out how to unscrew lids from closed jars.

Let's not get carried away on what constitutes a synapomorphy - perhaps a retained plesiomorphy or homoplasy is the
correct interpretation.



John Grehan wrote:

> Well, thanks to Ken helping me to look more closely at the situation we seem to have another confirmed orangutan-human synapomorphy. I decided to check with a specialist on primate cognitive behavior regarding the mechanical inclinations of orangutans (and their assoicated abiity to escape by unlocking cages) and my impression from the literature was corroborated. This person told me that "orangutans are mechanical geniuses.  This has long been recognized, and I don't know of anything that contradicts this impression of the 'bent' of their intellect." So it seems safe to include mechanical ability as the 44th  synapmorphy with humans even though there is no numerical quantification. It would seem that humans and orangutans are noteable for mechanical ability and after that other primates just don't show up on the radar screen. Perhaps the key to the 'success' of human evolution lies with having a common ancestor with the orangutan - a common ancestor that thought far more like us
> than chimps.
> John Grehan

Richard J. Jensen              | tel: 574-284-4674
Department of Biology      | fax: 574-284-4716
Saint Mary's College         | e-mail: rjensen at saintmarys.edu
Notre Dame, IN 46556    | http://www.saintmarys.edu/~rjensen

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