Blogs Dec 21, 2010 at 11:28 am


The big question is actually why you think that your question was the big question.
Good morning and happy winter, Charles.
Because they taste good.

Merry Solstice, and welcome to the 10th Congressional District, the Republic of Fremont!
There's more flexibility in the monkey branch to fill niches. Diversity comes from the ability to take advantage of diverse resources. Beetles are insanely good at this.
I read a science fiction story years ago premised on the idea that a planet could not have more than one intelligent species. More than one, then they'll kill each other off until only one is left. I suspect our ancestors found the other apes too much competition.
A combination of us being uniquely adaptable to various climates due to tool use followed by agriculture and the fact that we've killed off most of the members of the other ape species.
Or did you want some quasi philosophical bullshit?
Wanderlust. Humans took off and went places. And it's interesting, because they were as far away as Australia 60,000 or more years ago, yet parts of Africa, quite near where the species arose, had no humans until maybe 1,000 years ago.

To really answer your question, the big growth in population is due to agriculture and industry. At the time of Babby Jebus, there were only 200 million humans; at the time agriculture first appeared, maybe 10,000 years ago, there were fewer than a million. One billion was reached at the beginning of the industrial age, about 1800.

Apes don't have agriculture or industry.
@8, it doesn't have anything to do with killing off other apes. If we were ever in competition with other apes for food and survival, it was relatively briefly and a long time ago, when there were almost none of us.
I'm no scientist, but I think #5 is right.
I think there's a simpler answer to your first question (why so much more monkey diversity than ape diversity?). Apes are a subset of primates, and the apes have existed for a shorter period of time (~25 million years) than the primates in general (~60 million years). So its sort of like asking why there are more Christians than Lutherans -"monkeys" are a broader group with a longer history, and so pretty much by definition contain more species.
@8, assuming your @8 meant me.
In speaking in terms of why we'd have so many more, our killing off, mostly through habitat destruction, of the other ape species is relevant to the number of orders of magnitude in the difference between our species and the others.
@11, except that the vast majority of humans have always lived in places where there are no apes, except at the absolute earliest, back in Africa. Our great increases took place elsewhere, and had nothing to do with how many apes there were or weren't back in the motherland. And if no humans had ever existed in Africa, the number of apes would be larger than it is now, probably, but not orders of magnitude larger.
Dunno, @5, maybe if we started going barefoot and pantsless more often we'd develop greater empathy with nature and our evolutionary cousins. In our own relatively privileged (Western) milieu, that is. Re: @2, it's not so much that they taste good, it's that stupid civil wars and economic deprivation lead to the poaching and consumption of mountain gorillas as "bush meat." That, and the inexplicable demand for mummified hands as ashtray holders and suchlike stupid shit among the "elites" in other parts of the world.
@13 It's a Pearl Jam quote.
@12: Sure it would be orders of magnitude larger. We're talking hundreds of surviving mountain gorillas. To get to orders of magnitude larger for that species, all you need is 10,000. W/o any humans in Africa, I'm guessing that's awfully achievable. Hundreds is one hell of a bottleneck evolutionarily speaking. There would have to be a much larger population to successfully speciate to the extent that they have. They're currently in the last stages of dying out completely.

And the topic of the conversation is the actual numbers of humans vs other apes. The number of surviving apes is entirely relevant to the conversation and the fact that we personally live a long way away doesn't affect that relevance in the least. Yes, our increases mostly took place elsewhere, but their habitat was artificially shrunk due to human intervention as well. Both of those facts together are how we get to the ratio of humans to other apes.
@14: Oh. I'm musically illiterate, in every genre. Sorry. Other than that, though, I'll let my comments stand.
@15, no. Gorillas don't have agriculture or industry, and their habitat requirements are quite narrow. Humans have both, and they can live in any habitat. There is no conceivable scenario that would result in 6.8 billion gorillas.
@17: I never said there was such a scenario. I was trying to say that human intervention has knocked gorilla population down a couple orders of magnitude and resulted in a wider gap than there would have been otherwise.
Of course there used to be hundreds of thousands of apes, but they couldn't survive living in the same world with their insane devour-everything cousins.
The gorilla population is slowly recovering because they are worth more as a tourist attraction than they are as meat. It is in the government's monetary interests to try to prevent poaching and to support groups like the MGVP.

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