Thomas Suddendorf is a professor of psychology at the University of Queensland and a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. He is the author of “The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us From Other Animals.”
We humans tend to think of ourselves as better than, or at least separate from, all other species on this planet. But every species is unique, and in that sense humans are no different.
Nevertheless, it seems obvious that there is something extra special about us — after all, we are the species running the zoos. In “The Gap,” I survey what we currently do and do not know about what exactly sets humans apart.
What are the physical differences that distinguish us from our closest animal relatives?
There are some notable ways in which our bodies differ from those of apes and old-world monkeys. We can lock our knees straight, have longer legs than arms, and habitually walk upright, freeing our hands to do things other than carry our weight.
We have a chin. Our body surface is covered in sweat glands that provide a more effective cooling system than those of other primates. We have lost our canines and much of our protective fur — leaving males with the apparently pointless, but persistent, growth of beards.
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