The Ape That Took Over The World

The Ape That Took Over The World

2001, Science  -   52 Comments
Ratings: 7.57/10 from 37 users.

The Ape That Took Over The WorldIn 2001, scientists announced an amazing discovery: the oldest skull of a human ancestor ever found. The 3½ million year old fossil was remarkably complete, and unlike any previous fossil find. Its discovery - by a team led by Meave Leakey of the famous Leakey fossil-hunting family - has revolutionized our understanding of how humans evolved.

The great mystery of our evolution is how an ape could have evolved into the extraordinary creature that is a human being. There has never been another animal like us on the planet. And yet ten million years ago there was no sign that humans would take over the world. Instead the Earth was dominated by the apes. More than 50 different species of ape roamed the world - ten million years ago Earth really was the planet of the apes. Three million years later, most had vanished. In their place came something clearly related to the apes, but also completely different: human beings!

Brainy or bipedal? For years scientists searched for the first key characteristic which had allowed us to make the huge leap from ape to amazing human. At first they thought the development of our big brains was decisive. They even found the fossil that seemed to prove it, until along came the famous three million year old fossilized skeleton Lucy. This quashed the big brain theory, because here was a human ancestor which clearly walked on two legs, just as we do, but had the tiny brain of an ape. It seemed that the development of walking on two legs (bipedalism) was the first key human characteristic, the thing that set us on the road to becoming human.

Lucy soon became even more important. She seemed to defy the laws of evolution. Normally a major evolutionary adaptation like walking on two legs is followed by what scientists call an adaptive radiation. Many related species quickly evolve from an initial evolutionary innovation. It gives a very bushy evolutionary family tree, with many different but related species. Scientists knew that the human branch of the family tree had begun about six or seven million years ago, when the planet of the apes ended. And yet there was no sign of an adaptive radiation. The family tree showed just a straight line leading from the planet of the apes through to Lucy. (Excerpt from

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52 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ken

    I very much don't think that is actually an ape, as it bears an uncanny resemblance to my next door neighbour, in terms of both physical appearance and intellectual capacity. I believe this to be a subhuman?

  2. Victorian Values

    If you wonder why a sceptic of religion would rip this doc too shreds i was not brainwashed by the formatting of control-education.There are no links from this skull too humans it is god so far and no missing link,just pointing the true facts..if religion proves god before the missing link is found all science is pointless hrrrm ;) but we need the missing link not conjecture and hot air like this docu.

  3. Mikey Malaszczyk

    if ur wondering y i just acted so smart, I'm in accelerated science, and we do a lot of human research.

    1. Mantid

      I am guessing in ''accelerated science'' they teach dated ideas. Humans and Chimps aren't as closely related as you think, we are distant relatives, not siblings.

    2. HOwery

      Octopi, dolphins, dogs just to name a few other highly intelligent animals...

  4. Mikey Malaszczyk

    humans are the smartest ape of all time.
    i don't care if we r 'naked,' weak, or slow. brains is the most powerful weapon ever. look at jurassic park, wen the kids outsmart the raptors, or wen grant outsmarts the t rex. i no its just a movie, but think about it: a human walks into a bear's cave. now, there is no way at all a human could beat a bear without weapons. but humans no that they will make theirselves look bigger if they raise their arms. the human raises their arms and walks slowly out of the cave. human outsmarted bear. i don't care about any of the planet of the apes movies. these r good movies, but nothing will ever outsmart humans.
    plus, in 'rise of the planet of the apes,' there is a virus that wipes out humanity. humans and chimps are 99% the same. i doubt theres too many viruses that chimps are immune to and we humans die from.

    who agrees?

    1. Mantid

      Where did you get 99% from? Must have been a text book from the early 70s.

    2. Jack

      I weep for humanity if you are in my generation. There are hand-signing Gorillas that could outwit you. But the thing that most hurts me is not the bear reference, or the wrong facts, it is the spelling.

  5. Guest

    'we' are only the most intelligent animal cos 'we' set the test paper. i wouldn't fancy taking an external exam any time soon.

    1. Justin

      well no. We're the most intelligent animals on earth because we are the most intelligent animals on earth. That having been said, don't discredit how intelligent many other species are. Octopi, dolphins, dogs just to name a few other highly intelligent animals...

    2. TheWhidbeyIslandKid

      The portion of the mammalian brain which processes emotion is, when scaled down to human proportions, much larger and more developed in Orcas than our own. Meaning they not only likely feel emotions that we may never feel ourselves along with every motion we do feel as humans, but to a degree far beyond anything we could begin to imagine to feel. We must recognise our Orca brethren as beings with rights and liberties. They speak in distinguishable dialects and have very strong social structure as well as lifelong family bonds.

  6. peteinalexandria

    The Kenyanthropus fossil is oversold here; it is by no means clear that it is a unique species. There is considerable debate in the paleoanthopology community over whether it is another A. afarensis fossil like Lucy, or from another Australopithecus species.

  7. Sergio Aquino

    maybe those different kinds of apes find themselves atractive and started having intercourse and here we are.

  8. SFXkilla

    I enjoy reading the comments as much as I like watching the documentarys. Always lively and entertaining : )

  9. bb

    It could be.. but it shure is strange that all the primates have 48 cromossoms and we have 46 - where did the go - why have we lost our strnght - we are the slowest and one of the most weak memmals... Why are we so diferent? + it still is nothing more than speculations - just a tought...

    1. Epicurus

      actually our chromosome has 2 less pairs because there was a fusion somewhere along our evolutionary path. this is shown absolutely true in chromosome 2 which is a fusion of chimp chromosome 13.

      you can search chromosome 2 on youtube and watch a short video that explains it very well.

      our strength was lost due to our intelligence. you dont need strength like that when you are smart as humans.

    2. Tim Lawson

      moreover, we are slow and weak, yes..... but we can run further than any land mammal on the planet. (Yiannis Kouros has run over 100 miles within 12hrs, and 1,000mi in just over 10 days)

      We evolved as a hunting pack animal (youtube Persistance hunt).... that is why we are virtually hairless, stand upright, are 'weak' as being heavily muscled would slow us down, and we have the social morality that we do today also because of the complex social structure of a hunting pack

    3. Mikey Malaszczyk


    4. ale1974

      A very good thought!
      maybe because -thanks to technology-we're the only mammals on the planet that need a very little strength to create an enormous quantity of power ?maybe we'll need less and less to evolve? just a question...

  10. Lisa

    @ Randy
    "....academia in this country, (USA), more than any other time in its history, has become much more conservative and much more religious… another sign of a failing Empire.

    Yay for the USA!!! Keep up the good work! Hopefully we will be able to say the same thing about Canada very, very soon. Do you think there might be a reason for the increasing religiosity of society??? People have a great need for something bigger than themselves - period.

  11. mark

    he says we are the most intelligent like we have proof. WTFE

  12. ets

    what if lucie had a disease that made her brain smaller..... they have found a disease today that makes the brain grow smaller then usual. those people are very handicap. Could it be possible that lucie got that disease?

  13. D-K

    Gah! No forums!?

    Apparantly he did get rid of them. I'll put it up on this link for an hour or so, then I'll take it down.

    talkamongstyourselves. freeforums. org/post45235. html#p45235

  14. Randy

    I have a nephew who is going to college right now, and he also despises christianity. Maybe I influenced him, I don't know. I would be proud if I did!

    Well, he wrote this paper for which he recieved a "C" and he asked me to review it and give him my opinion, (it was a paper on... hmmm.. classical literature and its influence on social mores... hmmm... maybe I influence him more than I think?)

    Anyways, I read the paper and it was brilliant! Were I his teacher, I would have given him an "A-" and the minus, only for some run-on sentences, of which I am horribly guilty, all the time!

    The paper was about the rejection of christianity throughout the classical period and he quoted Blake and Yeats, and so many other great authors and poets... it was wonderful.

    I turned to him and asked, "Is your professor a christian?"

    He answered, "Yes... she talks about the bible all the time as the greatest book ever written..."

    Well, my seething has yet to burn out, even as it was many months ago...

    My point is to you, D-K, academia in this country, (USA), more than any other time in its history, has become much more conservative and much more religious... another sign of a failing Empire.

    Take that as you will...

    Meanwhile, your comment about 22 and no social life concerns me... I would like to chat with you about it, but I do not want to "air" it out in public like this.

    I see no forums, I think Vlatko took them down? Am I missing something?

  15. D-K

    Stop lookin at my goods man, you're married for crying out loud!

    It's not that I've been rejected by my peers, I actually don't really have any peers. The only one that usually reviews my fully written thesis' and examines them for logical inconsistancies is me.

    22 and not even a shred of a social life. Fantastic. hahaha.. But I digress.

    I actually enjoy being burnt, BECAUSE I hate being burnt. The more I get burned, the more effort I'll put into not being burnt.. keeps me sharp. This is why peer-reviews usually feel less-than-objective to me. People of a similar mind will not fully scrutinize my words, whereas a creationist will look for any opening to destroy my hypothesis.

    Opposition > peers in terms of objectivity.

  16. Randy

    I could sense that, (not in a psychic way, but just in your writing... nothing supernatural!).

    I felt that you had been rejected by your peers and it burnt you a little.

    You had a crispy taste to your writing, today! LOL!

    Listen, I am pretty good at seeing "the goods" and I think you have "the goods".

    Oh lordy... that sounded all gay again... please forgive me... again... dejevu, as it were...

  17. D-K

    Well, the best method we have to look at space is by looking at it through a giant stationary toiletpaper roll with some mirrors in and under it, I'm just saying it could-nay, should be better.

    Could be me though, I'm having a bit of an off-week, intellectually that is.

    I actually got schooled in logical probability of social inter-personal clustering (long story), something I usually excell in.. (at?).

    Meh, maybe next week i'll be in my top-game again.

  18. Randy

    Well, I will do that, (sign up for the forum...) however, I thought Vlatko said weeks ago that he may be eliminating the forum as people were avoiding it, (I believe he called them "Siberia"), in favor of, or in aquiescense to, our "chit-chat" on his front page.

    But, if he has a mind to keep the forums, then I would be happy to do that.

    As far as the peer-reviewed process, I must respectfully disagree with you. It is the very best method we have of battering the hell out of whacky ideas until they either, survive and become true, or die a bloody death in the arena of science.

    It is Nature, itself. We must all and our ideas, too, be tried in the fires of recrimination!

    WOW, that WAS totally pompous!

  19. D-K

    Ugh, I hate lower-case.. damn inferior tiny letters! lol

    Perhaps you could sign up for the forum on TDF, it allows you to send private messages to users on TDF which would a: make it possible to exchange email adresses privately and, b: would eliminate the need to exchange email adresses in the first place :)

    No bitterness, no anger. I simply find the peer-review process to be .. erm.. unscientific. Objectivity is an uncommon trait, moreso when you judge on matters you have an interest in yourself.

    It's human nature to question that which goes against out beliefs or thoughts and to accept that which reaffirms it. This is quite dangerous within the scientific field, albeit it to a lesser extent in theoretical science.

    You know how highly I value objectivity, subjective judgement in the field of science is devastatingly counter-productive, in my view.

  20. Randy

    I just looked up the precedent for an IP address acting as signature, "Makanowitzky v. Rhodes"

    Nasty case involving, what I believe, was Russian mob web-sites, (thousands of them, besides oil and gas-stations, web-sites are their main source of income), and some poor citizen that lost his house because he followed a web-scam.

    The court decided that Rhodes's IP address was as good as a signature as his signature was provided by his service provider... etc...

    Scary, brave new, electronic world!

  21. Epicurus

    Typically referees are not selected from among the authors' close colleagues, students, or friends. Referees are supposed to inform the editor of any conflict of interests that might arise. Journals or individual editors often invite a manuscript's authors to name people whom they consider qualified to referee their work. Indeed, for a number of journals this is a requirement of submission. Authors are sometimes also invited to name natural candidates who should be disqualified, in which case they may be asked to provide justification (typically expressed in terms of conflict of interest). In some disciplines, scholars listed in an "acknowledgments" section are not allowed to serve as referees (hence the occasional practice of using this section to disqualify potentially negative reviewers

    Not to mention that the people reviewing the process remain anonymous from anyone that matters in the process.

    However, in no way am i arguing it is 100% reliable. Just more reliable in most cases.

  22. Randy

    Alternatively, trying not to clutter Vlatko's blog with off-topic "chit-chat", I would certainly give him legal, written permission, (right here, which would stand up in most courts of law...), to send you my e-mail address, if he were so inclined and found it not too inconvenient.

    I know that he does not want us to share e-mails on the front page, and that is wise, but I would authorize him to share it with you, and Epicurus, and Achems Razor, erin*666.

    Again, if he were so inclined and if it were not too much of an inconvenience.

    Otherwise, I have no pages, or other internet presence, other than my business web-page, which I would also not disclose here as that would ASLO be a breach of Vlatko's trust.


  23. Randy

    @D-K (your last post had lower-case letters, what up wit dat?):

    This doesn't seem like you. I sense some bitterness and anger? I have been reading some of your recent posts and there is some real angst going on?

    Can I help? Or, is this not the proper forum...

    (That's up to Vlatko, of course... I said I was getting out of the "social aspect" of the site, but as I am on wife-ordered bed rest right now... "Just when I thought I was OUT! They pull me back IN...")

  24. d-k

    Peer review often lacks intensity in scrutinizing an affirming/confirming/coinciding thesis.

    That which affirms is usually met with acknowledgement, rather than scientific skepticism, which equals scientific integrity.

    I'm not a fan of peer reviews. (in general)

  25. Randy


    Yes, indeed. (I write that alot, "Yes, indeed" and now I see how truly pompous it is...)

    Um... totally, dude!

    Wait... that is just wrong for my idiom... hey! I'm pompous, what can I say...

  26. Epicurus

    that's the lovely thing about peer review.

  27. D-K

    Credentials are meaningless, they are affected by peers and rejected by opposition. The only true credentials come from opposition and humans are in general too petty and shortsighted for that.

  28. Randy

    And I too, am working on a Masters in evolutionary biology, (but getting more and more into evolutionary psychology, as Epicurus has re-kindled my interest in the subject over the past months...), and agree with him.

    And, I too, look up the experts and see what their credentials are before buying into anything they say.

    I go into every new knowledge with the idea that it is utter bull-- er-- a total lie, and then work backwards from that assumption. Information, for me, is guilty until proven innocent!

    It's a good critical thinking tool, I think...

    That all being said, this documentary was riveting!

    Thanks, Vlatko!

  29. Epicurus

    i wouldnt say im an expert. but i would warn you to actually look up who these experts are and what their credentials are and if there are experts who disagree.

    i am currently going for my Phd in evolutionary psychology if that helps.

  30. Icnivad


    This is coming from well respected people within this specific field of work. So unless you're an expert on this subject matter I'll go with the Doctorate and Phd's.

  31. Epicurus

    @icnivad, actually the Homo Futurus documentary is unsubstantiated pseudo-science.

  32. Icnivad

    Please watch a more recent documentary afterward here called Homo Futurus that covers fossil discoveries of bigger brained apes with grasping feet. The we walked upright first theory is quickly losing scientific ground over the our brain grew first theory. I always knew that our bipedalism had nothing to with increasing intelligence. So this documentary is for lack of better word "out data-ed".

  33. Doglover

    @myselfandI..... I dont think this is the best website for an irational creationist like you, you're just going to give yourself a headache.

    how about this for creationist proof "i know god is real because it says so in the bible, and gods word is sacred" LMAO

    talking snakes, parting seas, dieing and coming back to life again, but not really dieing because god can not die right...... oh thats right it was only 33.3% of god that was jeasus on earth, the son of himself LOL

    Get an education man!

  34. Delu

    It is shame on those producers that they claim the fossil to be from Kenya, while Lucy is from Ethiopia.

  35. DeathSSghosT

    we could argue about creation/evolution til we turn blue in the face. until you can find a way to test for god and not just say oh well we cant explain that so it must be god. thats just not how science works. science is about gather evidence and from the evidence, what can we pretty safely say until more evidence comes in. i think evolution is just mind blowing in the fact that it could create a being that can ask the question, where do i come from, the reason that evolution doesnt interfere with my religion is when you go far enough back, you eventually get back to a single cell. that cell is only a few thousand or million atoms. atoms that are in a way that are alive, why? but that thought enters more philosophy than science since there is little evidence one way or the other. then there is still the perplexing problem in science that we cant explain the beginning of the universe. the story of evolution is way more exciting and interesting than any story in the bible.

  36. Ashish


    Were you in this universe before you were born? No. So does that make the universe only as old as you are?

  37. Hardy

    Here we go again, more of the same old evolution-denial, and all we have are uneducated guesses. Blah blah blah.

  38. Epicurus

    @memyselfandI, there is plenty of proof in the form of fossils, enodgenous retroviruses, Genetics, ancient organism remains, fossil layers, similarities among organisms alive today, similarities in DNA, and similarities of embryos.

    there is no more faith in evolution than there is faith that there were dinosaurs....none of us were here but we have literally MOUNTAINS of evidence.

    none of us were at any crime scenes where Ted Bundy committed his murders but would you claim the court found him guilty based on faith??

    YOU have no idea about evolution. you lack the proper education on it and since you dont understand you make up absolutely ridiculous claims like the one you just posted.

    before PRETENDING you know about something, maybe you should study it a little....

  39. MemyselfandI

    Here we go again, More of the same old evolution theories and all we have are educated guesses. Were you there? Just as you would say to the Believers of a creating GOD; Prove it and you cannot. You go by blind faith.

  40. Ashish

    I wonder if there will be a documentary called 'The ape that destroyed the world'?

  41. mm2424

    Damn I can barely watch documentaries that are not narrated by David Attenborough anymore... Thanks for this one though!

    1. Vladimir

      Yes... :) I have same problem...