August 3, 2011
With the impending release this Friday of the documentary summer blockbuster Rise of the Planet of the Apes, I thought we should all be prepared in case we ever face chemically enhanced apes that attempt to take over our world. In the past on our site we’ve investigated zombies and kept a running record on robot technology, but the threat of ape rebellion had yet to be cataloged. The National Zoo’s Amanda Bania, a keeper who works with the great apes, told me that gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and the other ape species can best us in many ways, even without being injected with mysterious serums by James Franco. This week’s list deals with 5 ways that apes outdo humans:
1) Apes are 7 to 10 times stronger than humans of a comparable weight, or as Bania puts it: “Apes are insanely strong. In a one-on-one they have us beat hands-down.”
2) They have four hands. While not technically true, apes’ feet are basically like hands, according to Bania. Their lower appendages are adapted to help them climb trees with ease. Additionally, their hands have “a have a reduced thumb and their fingers are longer, which helps them grip when moving through the trees,” says Bania. “You couple that with strength and it’s not a fair fight in the trees.” While orangutans are the only arboreal ape, giving them the best climbing skills, they are also the most solitary, so good luck getting them into any sort of infantry regiment.
3) Their army will be led by a chimpanzee. Chimps are exceptionally smart, which makes sense when you consider that they (and the more mild-mannered bonobos) are the primates most closely related to us (a 98.76 percent match by DNA). Chimps have to navigate complicated social structures in their groups. One might think that the 800-pound gorilla would boss his way around a group, but they operate in a single-male monarchy, says Bania. He would have no experience leading an army of other male apes (unless he had a WAC-equivalent composed of of bonobos—their social groups are female-led).
4) Chimpanzees are battle-tested. Not only would the chimpanzees be leading the revolution, but they are known to go on “border patrols” and even kill opponents. “There is group-on-group warfare in chimp society where if they find other males in their territory, they will hunt them down and kill them, more often than not,” says Bania.
5) Even their stupidest members are still smart. The intelligence scale of primates is rather clear. With humans at the top, it then moves from chimps and bonobos to other great apes to lesser apes on down to monkeys and then prosimians such as lemurs, which are at the National Zoo and “aren’t the brightest.” But, Bania is quick to point out, “Duke University has a lot of cognitive research with lemurs that shows they can work on a computer and do sequencing.”
In the end, “If anyone was going to take over and give us a run for our money, it would be chimps,” says Bania. Fortunately, the National Zoo doesn’t have any so we here in D.C. are safe. For now.
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