Difference between Humans and Apes

June 30, 2016 by Editorial Team

While some say we came from apes, some say otherwise. This just goes to show that we humans are highly comparable to apes which have some similar capabilities to ours, but how about our differences?

Definitions

Humans

Humans vs Apes
Humans using tools to build their homes

Also known as Homo sapiens, the human is just a branch of the taxonomical tribe Hominini, which is under the family of great apes. That being said, scientifically speaking we humans are apes within the bigger family, primates. We are characterized by our erect posture and bipedal locomotion (moving by means of the two rear limbs or legs). We also are known to have fine motor skills and an increased usage of tools compared to other apes. Not to mention the fact that humans have more complex brains and societies.

 Human Anatomy in contrast to Apes

  • Only a limited portion of skin is covered in hair
  • Cranium is larger than the face
  • Facial Structure: Smaller eyebrow ridges; flattened jaws; large lips; protruding nose
  • Legs are longer than arms
  • Wide pelvis
  • Ability to straighten knee
  • Biped (moves with their two limbs or legs)

Human Social Behavior in contrast to Apes

  • Social groups are based on companionship, interests, culture, social media etc.
  • Advanced communication (e.g. language, signs, writing, etc.)
  • Can craft tools and manufacture advanced devices
  • Can make use of many forms of energy (e.g. fire, electricity, etc.)
  • Lives in specific homes/houses

Apes

Ape
An ape using a stick as a tool to dig out termites

A branch of tailless primates, they are distinguished from other primates by their freedom of motion at the shoulder joint to a wider degree. There are currently two existing branches of the superfamily Apes (Hominoidea): the lesser apes (gibbons), and the great apes (hominids).

  • Family Hylobatidae (lesser apes) includes four genera and sixteen species of gibbon, including the siamang, and Lar gibbon. This family of apes usually has lighter bodies and is smaller in groups. They also are highly arboreal (live in trees) and are bipedal on ground.
  • Family Hominidae (great apes) include the more known primates such as orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and of course humans. This family is known to be much larger in build and live in larger groups.

The Ape Anatomy in contrast with Humans

  • Most of their skin is covered in hair
  • Face is larger than their cranium
  • Facial Structure: bigger eye ridges; large jaws; thin lips; flattened nose
  • Longer arms
  • Narrow pelvis
  • Knees are bent only to greater or lesser extent
  • Flatter and fatter feet
  • Quadrupedal (moves on four limbs or legs)

Ape Social Behavior in contrast to Humans

  • Social groups are based only on survival necessities such as finding food, care of young, and protection
  • Has a limited range of communication (e.g. sounds and gestures)
  • Limited use of tools
  • Does not live in a specific home or dwelling places

Humans vs Apes

What’s the difference between humans and apes? They share a lot of similarities, and this is probably also the reason why they are often compared, but the differences are there and it is too obvious and too significant to ignore.

Physically, apes may have the closest similarities to humans than any other animals out there, but we still are two very different primates. While they walk on all fours, we walk on only two legs. We also have larger brains, longer legs compared to our arms, much less hair, a wider pelvis, and last but not least, impressive prowess at straightening our knees.

Behavior-wise, humans and apes can be socially active, but for different reasons. We humans usually join or are in a group just because we want to be. In the case of apes, however, it is solely for their survival needs. They need groups to find food, to care for their young, and for their protection. One other notable difference is that humans can communicate through many complex ways, while apes can only communicate to a lesser degree (sounds and gestures). Also, while we humans usually live in our homes individually or in a group, apes live in groups and territorially (in the wild, except for those that are in captivity of course).

Finally, as I’m writing these words on my screen, it shows how different we actually are from apes. We can utilize tools more efficiently and can communicate through written words.  These are only a few of the many differences mind you. This just goes to show that even though we may have a lot of similarities, we are still two different species.

Interesting Fact: Humans are the only primates that can’t eat and breathe at the same time.

Note: Since humans are considered apes under the Hominidae family of primates, apes in this context refer to ‘all other apes’.

Comparison Chart

HumansApes
Highly IntelligentIntelligent (compared to all other animals)
Only a limited portion of skin is covered in hairMost of their skin is covered in hair
Cranium is larger than their faceFace is larger than their cranium
Flattened jawsLarge jaws
Large lipsThin lips
Protruding NoseFlattened nose
BipedsQuadrupeds
Social groups not necessarily associated with survivalSocial groups are based on survival needs
Advanced communicationLimited communication
Advanced usage and manufacturing of toolsLimited use of tools
Live in a specific dwellingLive within small territories
Arched feetFlatter feet
Said to be 2 to 3 times weaker than apesSaid to be 2 to 3 times stronger than humans

Video

Don’t forget to watch this fun and interesting video explaining the DNA’s of humans and chimps (ape).