[Taxacom] Potential human orangutan evidence

Ken Kinman kinman at hotmail.com
Tue Nov 19 21:56:14 CST 2013



       You say that it "stacks up as another uniquely shared behavioral genetic similarity between humans and orangutans."  At best, I  would agree with two of those four adjectives for their similarity----shared and behavioral.  But there is no evidence that such similarity is genetic.  And I wouldn't be surprised if it isn't "uniquely" shared either, as I can easily see such broadcasting being discovered in some cetaceans, gibbons, or even some monkeys.  If so, it is only shared in a polyphyletic fashion (like eyes in vertebrates and invertebrates) Thus I not only suggest you treat it with caution, but extreme caution.



Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 22:25:50 -0500
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Potential human orangutan evidence
From: calabar.john at gmail.com
To: kinman at hotmail.com
CC: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu


I guess one could just as much say "why wouldn't chimps and gorillas not need to broadcast their intentions?" The trouble with an absence of a behavior is that one could always say it is an absence of 'need' rather than absence of ability. Humans have a very different social dynamic to orangutans (although in some ways similar, just as in some way similar to other great apes), and yet there is the commonality. I would agree that a similarity of this kind would have to be treated with caution, but it stacks up as another uniquely shared behavioral genetic similarity between humans and orangutans rather than humans and chimps. Always the opposite of the molecular prediction. Anyway, regardless of where one sits on this issue, it keeps the pot boiling! 

John Grehan

On Tue, Nov 19, 2013 at 9:29 PM, Ken Kinman <kinman at hotmail.com> wrote:

Hi John,                   
       A very interesting paper on orangutan behavior.  However, I seriously doubt its phylogenetic potential for great ape phylogeny.  Why would chimps or particularly gorillas have any need to "broadcast" their plans for the next day?  A dominant male gorilla might be thinking about what direction to take the next day (or next few hours), but why would he need to broadcast it with loud calls?  When the time comes, he just moves in that direction and his females follow him. Gorillas or chimps moving in groups are a whole different dynamic than a relatively lone orangutan male who needs to communicate over longer distances.                                   
      I also doubt that any human male "broadcasting" would be synapomorphic with such orangutan broadcasting.  It sounds more like convergence (or parallelism at best).  Or if gorillas and chimps do clade together (exclusively), it could be a plesiomorphy for great apes which was lost in gorillas and chimps because they didn't need it---in which case one might want to seriously look for such broadcasting in male gibbons, which could indicate a possible plesiomorphy for all the apes (lesser and greater). This seems more likely than a synapomorphy between humans and orangutans.  

> Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2013 10:53:26 -0500
> From: calabar.john at gmail.com
> To: taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu
> Subject: [Taxacom] Potential human orangutan evidence 

> Carel van Schaik et al (2013) published a paper that may have interesting
> phylogenetic implications. It is a behavioral study that shows how male
> orangutans make a call to other orangutans in the vicinity that lets them
> (males and females) know where that amle orangutan intends to move about
> the next day. This broadcast approach to communication with respect to
> intentions the next day has not yet been demonstrated in other great apes,
> but of course it is an ability expressed in humans. Other great apes (and
> some other animals) certainly can plan ahead, but this type of broad
> casting as well as for an event that is not of the same day is so far only
> known in humans and orangutans. More comparative research obviously needed.
> Article is open acces: van Schaik CP, Damerius L, Isler K (2013) Wild
> Orangutan Males Plan and Communicate Their Travel Direction One Day in
> Advance. PLoS ONE 8(9):e74896. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074896
> Excerpt
> Captive experiments have previously suggested the presence of
> the ability to plan for the future in great apes, but cannot reveal in
> which natural context this ability is used, if at all. The present
> study strongly suggests that wild Sumatran orangutans at Suaq
> Balimbing use this ability in the range-use context. Thus, the last
> long call given shortly before the flanged male went to sleep for the
> night provided a better than random prediction of his travel
> direction during the next day until 16:00 hrs, hence approximately
> 22 hours after the call was given. These findings therefore indicate
> that flanged male Sumatran orangutans make their travel plans at
> least a day in advance and announce them through their
> spontaneous long calls. The ranging responses of his audience
> show that other orangutans actually use this information,
> suggesting in addition some communication of plans from the
> male to his female audience. The delay in responses by the
> audience on the next day to long calls heard the evening before is
> also consistent with the presence of episodic memory in the
> listeners.
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