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Did we evolve from monkeys?

Did we evolve from monkeys?

Humans did not evolve from monkeys.

Humans are more closely related to modern apes than to monkeys, but we didn’t evolve from apes, either. Humans share a common ancestor with modern African apes, like gorillas and chimpanzees. Scientists believe this common ancestor existed 5 to 8 million years ago.

Shortly thereafter, the species diverged into two separate lineages. One of these lineages ultimately evolved into gorillas and chimps, and the other evolved into early human ancestors called hominids.

This evolutionary relationship is supported both by the fossil record and DNA analysis. A 2007 study showed that humans and rhesus monkeys share about 93% of their DNA. Based on the similarities and differences between the two types of DNA, scientists have estimated that humans and rhesus monkeys diverged from their common ancestor 25 million years ago.

Similarly, the fossil record has identified ancestors common to both humans and monkeys, such as an as yet unnamed primate fossil from Myanmar found in 2009 and dated as living around 37 million years ago.

Our closer cousins

Humans are actually more closely related to chimpanzees and other apes, but DNA evidence again shows that we didn’t evolve from them. Chimps and humans share between 98 to 99% of DNA suggesting that we shared a common ancestor around 6 million years ago.

Evolution is really a branching process where one species can give rise to two or more species. The fallacy of linear evolution is most clearly illustrated by the analogy of asking – how can I share common grandparents with my cousins if my cousins and my grandparents are still alive?

The answer is of course that your grandparents had more than one child and they each went off and started their own families creating new branches of your own family tree.

The same thing happens in evolutionary families. A species can split into two or more descendant species and they can split again and again across the generations.

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