The human hand, marvel of existence that it is, has been found to be more backwards evolution-wise than the so-called primitive hands of chimpanzees.
The human hand can take a lot of pressure as is evident from the death-dealing punches thrown by heavyweight boxers. And it can also handle the most delicate of tasks such as needlework.
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These opposite functions have allowed us humans to rule the roost as far as the evolutionary ladder is concerned (so far that is). But according to scientists, the human hand is actually more primitive that that of our chimp cousins.
The fact of the matter is that the human hand is closer in resemblance to an ancestor of both us and chimpanzees. Thus the human hand is actually quite primitive and rudimentary in its structural-functional repertoire than it was thought to be in erstwhile days.
Rather than human hands being the #1 prototypes on earth, it is the hands of chimps and orangutans that are more evolved on the time scale. For one thing, they have longer fingers than humans, an element that allows greater grip in conjunction with an opposable thumb.
Meanwhile, us humans have a longer thumb as opposed to the shorter fingers. This allows our fingertips to touch with precision and acuity. The last common ancestor of humans and chimps had chimp-like hands thereby making us modern humans primitive by comparison to the manual capabilities of this common ancestor.
The nature of this ancestor remains a mystery though. It is a dark figure alright. The findings suggest that the human thumb-to-fingers ratio is such that it has transformed very little since the prehistoric times. This discovery is significant since it opposes the common sense thought that newer forms are more evolved than their predecessors.
The theory goes something like this. The human family, when it split from the great ape family, started using chipped stone and flint implements. This was some 3.3 million years ago. In the early stages the chimps’ hands were pretty much like ours.
And then the changes that occurred beyond the physical were neurological and social as mankind built systems of thought and organizations where brains overtook brawn. And as we handled tools, later on the tools took on a life of their own as man-made technology came of age.
Today this has reached its point of super-saturation so that we have little to do with our hands and automation bears the brunt of the burden.
The research was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.