Classification is the ordering of organisms into categories to show evolutionary relationships. There is much thought and consideration that goes into animal classification, and specifically primate classification. Different primates are observed and are looked at genetically. It is seen as a controversial topic because many believe that chimps and humans belong in the same category because they are very similar. Currently, there are two major classification systems, anatomical classification and hominoid genetic classification.
The Anatomical Classification begins with three groups; hylobatids, pongids, and hominids, which refer to gibbons, great apes, and humans, respectively. The Hominoid Genetic Classification system groups them a bit differently. It begins with two major groups, hylobatids and hominids. In this classification, rather than referring to humans alone, the hominids category includes the great apes as well. Hominids are further divided into pongines (orangutans), gorilines (gorillas) and hominines, which consists of humans, chimps, and bonobos. Humans in the Hominoid Genetic Classification system are referred to as hominins instead of hominids (Larsen 142). In the Hominoid Genetic Classification system chimps, bonobos and humans are kept together until they completely diverge. Clearly, there are different displays of classification and it’s something that many people do not agree on.
There are many factors that are important to consider when classifying organisms, and in this case, primates. It’s not always just physical appearance, which is what many people outside of the anthropological world make it seem to be. Just because we are not hairy nor live in the wild, doesn’t mean we’re completely different. We have a lot of the same features, which in fact, are what makes us primates; opposable thumbs, lowered foramen magnum which enables us to stand straight up, even if it’s not our usual position. It also has a great deal to do with cognitive functions and genetics. Every single one of the Great Apes has proven to have cognitive ability and a larger brain size to body ratio, just as we do. Orangutans teach their young different skills, Gorillas and communicate via sign language, and chimps are able to understand human speech. This is not only limited to primate observation. There has also recently been an increase in genetic information, and scientists have found that humans and the great apes share a vast majority of their DNA.
Small changes in DNA can make a very big difference. In recent studies by Katherine Pollard, genetic similarities and differences were found between humans and chimps. “It turns out that where DNA substitutions occur in the genome – rather than how many changes arise overall—can matter a great deal. In other words, you do not need to change very much of the genome to make a new species” (Pollard 32). Two genes that were found to contain changes are HAR1 and FOXP2, which both deal with speech and...