Human hands are a marvel of dexterity. Human hands can build amazing structures, play the keys of a piano, and paint works of art that stand the test of time.
Scientists have assumed that our hands evolved their uniqueness over millions of years. Until now. A new study suggests that there are some aspects of the human hand that are anatomically primitive—even more so than our closest ancestors: the chimpanzee.
Here are 18 fascinating facts about one super impressive body part: the human hands.
In a study done by the journal of Nature Communications, they found that although the human hand proportions have changed some from the last common ancestor of chimps and humans, the hands of chimpanzees and orangutans have evolved substantially. Humans have a fairly long thumb and shorter fingers allowing us to touch our thumbs to any point along our fingers to therefore easily grasp objects. With chimpanzees it’s the opposite—they have much longer fingers and shorter thumbs. This makes it ideal for them to swing in trees but aren’t as handy with grasping objects.
For many years the prevailing view among researchers was that humans had chimplike hands and that our hands changed in response to the pressures of natural selection to make us better toolmakers. But now with a growing body of evidence, human hands have in fact stayed close to being the same for millions of year. Early hominins that had nothing to do with making tools still appear to have hands similar to those of modern humans.
Researchers have since measured the proportions of both human and chimp hands to see which is closer to our hands. During the study, they sampled humans, apes and monkeys, as well as some extinct species such as Proconsul heseloni, Ardipithecus ramidus and Australopithecus sediba. Based on their findings, they concluded that the ancient ancestor of humans and chimpanzees had more human like hands.
The human hands may represent a very primitive anatomical structure that has been around for millions of years.
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