The chimp that kept holding a stick: It’s still a human instinct

Clive Bromhall, Eternal Child
“With glistening teeth, glazed eyes and erect hair, a furious male chimpanzee can best be described as hell on legs. Beside himself with rage he throws himself around the forest, screaming hysterically, beating and, if possible, [ripping off branches and] destroying everything within his reach in an attempt to terrorize all around him. In this state, he epitomizes everything that is aggressive, status-oriented and belligerent about mature male primates as they constantly fight to elevate their position in the social hierarchy.”

Chimps do prepare and use sticks as weapons
Chimps do break off branches and strip them of their leaves—as tools, to dip into insect mounds and other things, like knocking down drones.  Chimps also hurl their prey animals into tree trunks to kill them.

Branch dragging
In chimp and bonobo videos, we see both species dragging leafy branches around. With chimps, we see this in times of violence, where the branch (normally still full of leaves) is dragged to the ‘battlefield’.  We also observe chimps stripping branches down so they sort-of resemble broomsticks.

Chimpanzee hunting
Chimps have hunting parties of up to 30 individuals where they prey on at least 25 species. They also prey on other chimpanzees in other troops. Sometimes they bite to immobilize their prey, but more often they hurl the prey animal into a hard object such as a tree trunk, using an impact to immobilize their prey. If they are up in the treetops they will often hurl the animal to the ground. Also, chimps frequently kill multiple individual prey animals on a day’s hunt.

One in a billion?
Let’s ponder all the billions of hell on legs chimpanzee males that have existed over the last couple million years. It seems that at least one of them developed the behavior of carrying around a stick. Then, when he was battling for troop supremacy, or out on a hunting raid, he would flail his stick, already in hand, and then this particular hell on legs would eventually make contact with his opponent. Thus he would tend to out-survive the other chimps that did not carry sticks around.

Poised just below the threshold
Chimps are poised just below the threshold, with one thing holding them back. The instinctive behavior of keeping hold of the branches they strip.  And they already strip branches.  All they need is the behavior where they keep holding a branch they just stripped.

It is a parsimonious theory
It was just a minor change in an already existing behavior. This is what set mankind on its separate way, apart from the chimpanzees and bonobos.

It is a human instinct, but not a chimp instinct
The instinct to hold a stick does not exist in chimpanzees, but it does exist in humans. In fact, many young boys show it.

The great moment is frozen in time
If we watch 2-to-4 year-old boys playing. Many will instinctively pick up stick and start hitting things. And normally (remarkably) they will hold one end of the stick, and without bending their elbow much, they will raise their club and strike downward with it rather awkwardly, like a proto-human chimp might. This I submit is an instinct, and judging from how common it is in young boys, it is a powerful instinct in our species. I submit that this is the key behavioral change, this is the tool use that tipped our species into the wormhole of memetic evolution.

Then the stick carriers quickly took over
Once the stick carrier’s offspring start keeping sticks as a matter of instinct, these males would have quickly killed off all the other unarmed lines in their area. Then they would quickly spread through almost the entire territory of their species, until stick carrying became the normal behavior for all the males of the species. Thus it was that this behavior became the species, or at least the male half of the species. After this, there was an evolutionary arms race among them to be the best stick user.

The many changes stick carrying caused

Now once all the males are carrying around sticks some important evolutionary changes started to occur:
A) A more upright posture is suddenly rewarded as a life or death matter. Chimps bring much more force to their blows when they are upright.
B) Any increase in bipedalism was also a life or death matter, because these were able to stay up on their hind legs rather than scurrying on all fours and then rearing up when they got to their opponent who was already on his hind legs. Also, it should be noted that upright postures and bipedalism gives little benefit until after the hands are actually holding a weapon.
C) Increases in coordination were a life or death mutation. How well did they swing their stick?
D) Once they started carrying sticks, they didn’t need big teeth, or strong ape musculature. what they really needed was to stand upright and wield their sticks better.
E) A better grip on the stick was rewarded, so the thumbs became more opposing.
F) Our ancestors found much more food and a tolerable level of risk when they went on the African grasslands. Thus the instinct to carry a stick seems to have started our species on its evolutionary way.

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The struggle then became one of in-species evolution
Once the stick carriers became the species, there was steady competition between them for dominance. And these guys must have just massacred each other at first with their new and deadly sticks/clubs. After all, only one blow to the head might have been deadly. What a crucible for evolution. Thus we stopped evolving against other animals & started evolving against each other.

Meat for sex
Chimpanzees (but not bonobos) have been seen to hunt other monkeys (colobus monkeys) in packs. Then they exchange the monkey meat for sexual privileges with females. And because this exists in both chimps and humans, we can say that it is a behavior that existed before the great human leap. (also see ‘Meat for sex in chimpanzees’ in Matt Ridley, Origins of Virtue.)

Now the females that were potentially receptive to sex all the time got fed more often. This caused these female lines to out-survive the others, especially during famines. This is why both humans and bonobos females are always potentially receptive to mating. On top of this, these meat-for-sex females were mating with the males which were most successful at using tools and thinking and thus their offspring were better. Thus the meat for sex behavior took over as a definitive characteristic of our species early on.

Undefeatable
Once the battle for pack supremacy led the chimps to any sort of dexterity with their sticks they quickly became a species that no predator would go near. After all, how does any lone animal attack 40 (let alone 4) enraged stick bearing chimps?  The answer is that stick-armed chimps were like a hornet’s nest, (and a smart and adaptable one that) best avoided by ALL predators. Thus they would all run from our ancestors when we showed up screeching at their kills.

Onto the savannah
Once defensive supremacy was mostly achieved, there was little need to stay near trees. So troops of our ancestors started venturing onto the African savannah. And these could go anywhere without danger as a troop. So they spread out in troops, or proto-tribes, over the meat-rich savannah of Africa.

Aggressive scavenging
Early proto-humans as troops of armed prey thieves
Imagine a hungry troop of 40 slow moving semi-upright chimps walking and scooting across the savannah. And they are still not totally comfortable walking upright all the time. These guys are way too slow to hunt anything. But hunting was not how they fed. See, in addition to being the undefeatable on the defensive, our ancestors were undefeatable in any spot they cared to occupy and make their own, thanks to the sticks they were carrying.

Early on, they would become instantly hungry and enraged when they found another animal’s kill. They were hungry, and they wanted that meat, and all 30 were swinging their sticks up and down, beating the ground.  And all 30 were chimp-screeching, drawing ever closer to the predator. And finally, one of the stick ends come down across the back of the cat, and then another. Then the cat is gone. The cat runs off from his kill in fear. Then from that day forward, the cat is scared by chimp screeching.

So our species didn’t actually start as hunters, but hunter harassers, or armed prey robbers. We were too slow to be hunter/ predators ourselves at first, but a troop of enraged male chimps swinging sticks were able to take and occupy pretty much any territory they cared to, regardless of what predators were dining there.

Armed prey robbery
It is easy to drive lions off a kill today.  There is a BBC video of this, where three African tribesmen just confidently walk up to lion kill and drive the lions off. Then they slice off a haunch and walk away. Apparently this practice is quite widespread, and quite ancient. And 30 proto-humans doing this with broomsticks would not have even had to worry about the lions coming back.

Plagues and Peoples, Wm. H. McNeil, P.20
“Big game hunting by humans started in Africa something like half a million years ago.” [What about driving predators off their prey?]

The Chimps suddenly became hugely successful
Once the stick-carrying chimps  wandered into this aggressive scavenging niche, the food inputs for our species just exploded. Instead of being this marginal species that hunted a bit and monkeyed its way into the left-over macro-fruit of the jungle, they were now living off of the meat energy of the immense herds of the grasslands. And best of all, they didn’t even have to worry about chasing down and killing the prey. All they had to do was follow the real predators and wait for them to make a kill, and then get to the kill site before the real predator ate too much.  With all this food, the size of the ape breeding population, or breeding network exploded. And thanks to the scaling of the breeding network, evolutionary speed, or rather, adaptation speed increased at an exponent of the size of the network. So adaptation time accelerated exponentially.

Did our ancestors cause lions to hunt in groups?
Look at how lions hunt in packs. Perhaps this behavior unique among cats came from early proto-humans driving lone lions off their prey. In this way, the lions could certainly be more formidable, but perhaps more importantly, they could consume more of their prey before the humans arrived. This is why the bushmen run to that lion kill on Youtube. It is so the 8 hungry lions don’t eat everything. Here it seems that lion prides may have been a response to human parasitism. From here it seems reasonable to ask if lions were the predator most affected by our aggressive- scavenging ancestors.

Out of Africa
It is well known that most recent speciation happens in Africa. This is because Africa is by far the largest area that is both warm and wet during ice ages. There is a worldwide reduction in evaporation and wind  during ice ages, this makes much of South America a desert.  So during ice ages, Africa alone can support the large ice-age breeding networks where evolutionary time occurs faster. Thus evolutionary time moves faster in Africa during ice ages, which amounted to some 92%± of the planet’s recent time judging from the ice core data. And over the past 2 million years there would have been some 18 ice ages.

Then during warm ages, when the entire world can support large breeding populations, the (then) more advanced African varieties spread all over the world, mingling with the more primitive local populations. This would happen at the beginning of a giant surge in all populations worldwide among both humans and animals.

Now this probably happened with humans to varying degrees in the 18 ice ages of the past 2 million years. Here we imagine nomadic proto-humans repeatedly wandered out of Africa in search of game. These each mingled with the less-advanced locals. And in general, and with many exceptions, the farther they roamed, the more advanced they were. And when they wandered ‘Out of Africa’ the slower evolving small networks outside of Africa were in general no competition for the African males who were about 5.5%± more evolved (1÷ 18 = 5.5%) than the old humanoids. And this has happened to some degree around 18 times over the past 2 million years. Here is why pretty much all the fossil evidence of early hominids found outside of Africa is for the most part an evolutionary dead end.

It should also be noted that the current Holocene warm age has been particularly long and mankind has thus evolved particularly far from this reality. However, we should expect that in previous, shorter ice ages, the spread of African genetic material was not nearly as complete.

New mind, same body
At the end of each ice age, there were always bands of advanced African emigrants that encountered the primitives living outside Africa. These new African emigrants were smarter and more advanced and would breed very successfully with the locals, however, they were still just tiny populations wherever they went. So their physical characteristics were quickly lost in the gene pool. All that was left was the beneficial mental traits that brought survival to their progeny. Here we imagine their advanced mind prevailed over the less advanced locals, while physically the local population swallowed-up the outsiders and remained unchanged.

Chimps poised just before the wormhole
Chimps are so close to  keepijng a stick. Here we see a creature poised on the threshold to something that will transform their species. Perhaps chimps did not cross the threshold once, but repeatedly. Perhaps they crossed thousands of times over the past 6-million years and perhaps 55 warm ages.

The thing is, however, more evolved stick carriers were already on the savannah. And these treated the new stick carriers with zero sympathy. In fact, the more advanced stick carriers would simply massacre the new ones. And this is why chimps are poised at the threshold of the great leap. It is because whenever the behavior takes off (as it perhaps does repeatedly) it encounters an older and much better adapted breeding network in the same niche. So we have men and chimps, and nothing in between.

The chimpanzee stick-violence experiment
We should condition a small chimp culture to carry sticks and watch them. It is a bit inhumane, but it must be done. We will learn vitally important things from it. And we should keep the experiment going for some generations on an island. How fast do they evolve?

McNeil, Plagues and peoples
“Slaughter of man by man probably took over an equivalent demographic role, as least from the time when all suitable territory within the favorable savanna lands had been pre-empted by human hunting bands and they began to rival one another”

McNeil, Plagues and peoples
“Survival was more likely for the more formidable in battle, as well as for the more efficient in the hunt.”

Photo morph
Let’s show an upright chimp morphed into a man over 111 hours.  To indicate the passage of each generation, lets make the start of every generation at full brightness, but at the end of each generation the brightness will fade to 20%.  This way there will be a flickering and each flicker will represent a generation. This is how we get people make people grasp how evolution works over the millennia.  Let’s have this 111-hours represent 6 million years. And let’s take for our generational length 15 years, because both chimp and human females have historically born children at age 14 or 15. So in the past 6 million years, there have been around 400,000 generations. If we say that each second represents one generation; it would take 400,000 seconds to show. That is 6,666 minutes, or 111.1 hours, or 4 days and 15 hours. Please do this starting on every January 1, and broadcast it all over the internet. This will give the world a feeling of how many generations it took for man to evolve from chimpanzee-like ape.

Chimps
They live for over 60 years in captivity
Most females have their first child at age 14
Gestation is 8.5 months
They are independent by age 6
Average troop size is 15 to 120
Males form alliances
The alpha male sires most of the offspring
They use rocks as hammers
They use leaves as sponges
They use twigs to fish for termites.
They have opposable thumbs
They engage in coordinated hunting
They eat 25 species including red colobus monkeys
They raid other chimp communities and eat their victims
Chimpanzees are cannibals.
We see them dragging sticks and branches in videos
They flail branches in a not quite effective way at times

Bonobos
Females share food
There are no male alliances
No alpha males
Bonobos have sex every day, but chimps only part of the month
They drag branches
Females are in charge

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