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Questions for Close Cousins

SCIENCE

Before reading:

1. What other animal species alive today are humans most closely related to? If you don’t know, make an educated guess.

2. Explain what, if anything, you know about bonobos.

During reading:

1. What two animals species are humans’ nearest living relatives? Give a few examples of similarities among these species, and a few examples of how the species differ.

2. How old is the common ape ancestor of humans, chimps and bonobos?

3. What is the biggest difference scientists have noted between chimps and bonobos? Do you think their tendency to be peaceful vs. violent has anything to do with whether males or females dominate? Explain your answer.

4. Explain why Wobber believes chimps have become more aggressive than bonobos.

5. What did Wobber’s experiments with food sharing among chimps and bonobos uncover? At what age do differences in sharing behavior start to emerge in each species?

6. What did Tan’s experiments on favor-granting uncover among bonobos? Can these animals behave unselfishly? And if so, under what conditions?

7. Explain which communication skills humans share with bonobos and chimps. Which communication skills don’t we share with those two species? What does this say about the common ancestor of these three species?

After reading:

1. If you got lost in the forest and had to live with a family of chimps or a family of bonobos, which would you choose, and why?

2. Why do you think chimpanzees are more well-known than bonobos?

SOCIAL STUDIES

1. Do you agree with the recent proposal by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to protect all chimps, not just those in the wild? Include in your answer when — if ever — you believe it would be okay to conduct potentially harmful experiments on monkeys, chimps or bonobos.

2. Now that you’ve learned that people can communicate in some form with chimps and bonobos, what would you try to say to a chimp or bonobo, if you had the opportunity to communicate something to them?

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