News Round-Up

Animal adoptions make no evolutionary sense, so why do they happen?


Scientists used to think that humans are special because we have larger brains than other animals. However, some experts in human evolution have suggested that it isn’t how we think that makes the difference, but how we feel. They suggest that humans may have evolved to be kinder to one another, or at least to suppress their tendency to lash out in anger.

If so, true generosity might be a uniquely human trait. Generosity is usually defined in evolutionary terms as altruism. This is when an individual acts in a way that costs valuable resources or time, with no expectation of repayment.

There are occasions, however, when our animal kin surprise us. For instance, scientists working with gorillas in Rwanada recently found the gorillas band together to take care of orphans. In these cases, young peers and (surprisingly) dominant adult males can be key to immature orphans’ survival. Perhaps it really does take a village to raise a child. MORE

Header image: Bonobos can sometimes adopt babies from entirely different social groups. Credit: Nature Picture Library/Alamy.