"Simia quam similis turpissima bestia nobis"
  (How like us is that ugly brute the ape).

                                    Quintus Ennius


This class examines the morphological, genetic and behavioral variability within and among our closest relatives, the extant apes of Africa and Asia . It then uses this framework to analyze questions of systematics and to trace the evolutionary development of the hominoids during the Miocene, the epoch that saw the last common ancestor of today's gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans.

The course is divided into five parts. The historical and contextual framework is the starting point of the class as we trace the historical trajectory of our understanding and image of the ape from ancient Egypt to the beginnings of modern primatology. Following this, we will build a foundation in basic hominoid morphology and physiology as key functional systems (locomotor, sensory, masticatory and reproductive) are explored. Lectures will be integrated with hands-on analysis of skeletal materials. This will provide students with a framework for the section that follows, a consideration of species and subspecific designations among the Hominoidea . We will evaluate the most recent anatomical, genetic and related evidence for taxonomic distinctions within each genus.

The next phase of the course offers an exploration of hominoid behavior. Given the wealth of ape-specific behavioral research conduced over the last thirty years, will begin this section by focusing on pertinent issues for each taxon. We will then consider major themes in hominoid behavior, particularly those that receive significant scientific as well as popular attention primarily because of the genealogical proximity of our own species to these forms. These include recent controversies about the extent and implications of ape tool use and intelligence. The last part of the course synthesizes these data as we trace the evolutionary history of the hominoids from their earliest beginning to their heyday and ultimate decline in the Miocene.

Prerequisite: Recommended but not required courses--V1010 or V101. Students who are interested in the class who haven't taken either course are welcome to speak with the instructor.


Course Outline

PART I. Historical and Contextual Framework
Introduction: The Apes in the Human Mind
from Egypt to Darwin
Beginning Framework continued: The Apes in the Human Mind from Darwin to Yerkes
Who are the Hominoids? Taxa, Distributions and Phylogenetic Relationship

PART II. Comparative Hominoid Morphology
Cranial Anatomy and Dental Variation
Postcranial Morphology--Locomotor Adaptations
Brain and Special Senses and Reproductive Systems

PART III. Species and Subspecies Designations among
the Hominoidea: Morphology, Genetics and Related Data

Current Perspectives on Hominoid Systematics:
Theory, Method, Politics and Practice
The Neglected Ape: The Orangutan
The Gorillas: From East to West,
Highlands and Lowlands
The Common Chimpanzees
Bonobos: Fourth Ape or Pretenders
Are They Really "Lesser" Apes? The Hylobatids

Part IV. Hominoid Behavior: Genus Specific Issues
General Introduction: Lesser and Great Apes Societies
Genus Specific Issues:
Hylobatid, Orangutan, Gorilla,
Common Chimpanzee and Bonobo Behavior
Tool Use and Tool Making among Hominoids--
Implications for Intertaxonomic Comparisons
Beyond Ape Language Studies--
Measuring Intelligence in Our Closest Relatives

PART V. The Miocene Fossil Record
Tracing the Evolutionary History of "The Apes"

The Early Miocene: The Pronconsulids--
Derived Catarrhines or Earliest Hominoids?
The Middle Miocene: Africa, Europe and Asia--
The Hey Day of the Apes
The Late Miocene: Refugia and Remnants--Gigantopithecus's Last Stand
The "Apes” Today: Apes in the Human Mind in
the New Millennium