Airdate: Nov 17, 2011
KSC Animal Smarts - Apes,DNA,Dogs
Man's best friend knows what we want and how to get us to do what they want.
Animal Smarts - Apes,DNA,Dogs
Music; Ambiance: chimps - Gombe Reserve, dogs - shelter
Hare: "We study primates and we study primates because they're very closely related to us when we look at what's called DNA."
If our DNA is close to other primates, you'd think that chimps and other apes would behave a lot like us, but that's not always the case. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Brian Hare is an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University.
Hare: 'When we look at genetics, in ends up primates are most similar to us when we compare our DNA to their DNA. And of course DNA is what basically produces everything you see. The reason you have 5 fingers is because there's a code in every one of your cells that says make 5 fingers. And it ends up our code is very similar to their code. So a lot of people have thought: Well, if we wanna find animals that think like us, we should look at animals that have the code that is most similar to our code. But it ends up that's not the case. In some cases animals that have very different code from us are the ones that are most similar."
Human beings like to cooperate with each other, and apparently, other primates don't. But there is an animal that's learned remarkably well how to cooperate with and in many ways, be a lot like us.
Hare: "So the perfect example of this is your pet dog! They think like we do more than primates in some cases. So what dogs are really special for is they really really enjoy communicating with humans. They enjoy trying to understand what is it that you want. And what is it that they can do to get you to do what they want. So that's very different than animals that are even much more closely related to us and makes our relationship very special."
More on the special relationship between dogs and humans in future programs. Brian Hare is one of the participants in the Kids' Science Challenge, our free nationwide competition for third to sixth graders, made possible by the National Science Foundation. Check out kidsciencechallenge.com. I'm Jim Metzner.