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What is Differentiates Humans from Animals?

Biologists classify humans as animals and part of the animal kingdom. Like our nearest relatives, the apes, humans are also mammals. Humans have evolved from apes, but there are features that differentiate us from other animals including apes. These include the upright walk our opposable thumb, our special ability to communicate by a language and our highly developed brain. Our brain allowed our ancestors, like the Neanderthals, to invent tools.

Did humans evolve from the apes?
Today, one can think of the apes and humans as cousins. They have common ancestors, but have not descended directly from each other. About 5-7 million years ago, a line of man-like apes grew apart, and evolved independently of the other apes. The oldest, almost completely intact skeleton of an upright ancestor of human-the was found in 1974 in Ethiopia (Africa). The Australopithecus scientists named it ‘Lucy’.

Do animals use tools?
Animals do make use of tools for getting food or for protecting themselves. Apes reach for sticks or stones when threatened, sea otters break their favourite food, the shells, with the help of stones, and a species of inches picks out insects from tree trunks, with along cactus quill. For generations the young ones of animals have watched the traits of the adults and imitated them exactly. Humans, on the other hand, may change the traits according to personal requirements.

Who were the Neanderthals?
The Neanderthals were people who lived 130,ooo-30,ooo years ago, but then died out due to unknown reasons. One theory is that other lines of humans were stronger and eliminated them. The Neanderthals were about 1.7o m tall, had a heavily built body and were very powerful They needed this power and strength to hunt woolly mammoths and rhinoceros with their home-made spears and knives. They made clothes of animal skins, lived in caves, and used fire. Their name is derived from the place where their remains were found, the Neander valley near Dusseldorf.

What is so special about our thumb?
Unlike other animals, our thumb is opposable, which means that it has free movement and can be placed opposite the fingers of the same hand. This helps us to grip things securely and lets us do delicate jobs like threading a needle. Our grooved fingertips prevent smooth things from slipping away. This movement of the hand, combined with the freely moving shoulder joint and the upright posture, gave our ancestors a development advantage: tools or weapons could be used for a specific purpose with great power.
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