The issue of whether humans evolved from apes would seem as difficult a question to answer as: What came first, the chicken or the egg? There are numerous similarities between apes, chimpanzees and humans. Because of these similarities we are classified into the same taxonomic group: Primates.
Chromosome and DNA testing has revealed that we are almost identical to chimpanzees. The genus to which we are classified does not make us the same species; it classifies us as different species that are similar. There is about a four percent difference between us, and that four percent is actually more complex than you would think.
Research indicates that the first apes appeared around twenty five million years ago. The first homo sapiens appeared about 195,000 years ago. Both are classified under the order Primate, suborder Haplorhini, family Hominidae, subfamily Hominini. Features that were discovered through classification of fossil remains lead to the link between man and ape. Most mammals have eyes located on the side of their heads, but primate skulls have eyes located in the front, creating an overlapping vision and depth perception. Primates also have a center of mass over their limb structure, nails over their fingers, and sensitive feet and hands that allow them to explore their environment.
Evolutions of primates differ between species. Over twenty million years ago weather patterns created shifts in temperature and geological conditions. What was once a vast tropical region became broken fragments of forests and savannahs. The change in environmental habitats forced an evolutionary change to apes, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. Before, they were tree dwelling, and now they were becoming more terrestrial. Changes in diet caused physical changes also. Primates evolved to bipedal locomotion, upright postures. This allowed them to locate predators and use their hands for domestic needs. The creation and use of tools were also adopted through this evolutionary change.
The very definition of evolution is evolving over time to a different and more complex or better form. The evolution concerning the previous mentioned primates did not alter DNA structure; it advanced social and behavioral skills through environmental conditions. We still have the same species today that lived millions of years ago.
Homo sapiens, or humans are primates due to our similar patterns and characteristics. Our eyes are located in front to give us depth perception and three dimensional vision. We also have a center of mass over our hind limbs that creates balance for bipedal locomotion. We have nails to protect our fingers and toes, and these appendages assist us in testing our environment. The difference in characteristics is in the skeletal framework as well as surface appearance. To name a few, our spines become larger as you go down the cervical, thoracic and lumbar regions. Apes spines are enlarged and the size is relatively the same throughout, this allows for muscle attachment to support their enlarged head. Our toes, especially the big toe is not opposable like an apes, it runs parallel with our other toes. This feature gives us balance and creates a structure for weight bearing. Our thigh bone, the femur is centered for gravity, where an apes is turned, and causes the ape to amble rather than walk smoothly.
The evolutionary changes to humans were more complex. We used our hands for domestic needs and can see predators by being an upright species. We also learned to make primitive tools. The difference is the four percent. Humans have evolved through culture, beliefs and behaviors. The earliest humans classified as Homo sapiens, not Neanderthal, learned survival skills. These skills were changed over time through cultural changes, not genetic ones. Each generation improved the quality of life and skills by passing on information learned over time. Our brains were improved by the development of regions that were unused previously. We learned from trial and error to make structures, establish communities, trade between different cultures and advanced through the centuries up to the technological age we enjoy today. The four percent difference created inventions and education that continues to evolve.
We are primates, but did we evolve from apes, chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans? I think not. We are classified as different species that are similar, not the evolution of one species to a new and improved being. If we were, why are there still gorillas, apes, chimpanzees and orangutans? If we had evolved from them, why didn't the rest of them evolve over time? Surely they would have advanced in intelligence and improvement of communities as we have. Four percent in this case is a lot bigger number than it seems.