Sister Species: Lessons from the Chimpanzee surveys of the natural sciences through studies of our closest relative, our sister species the chimpanzee. In the course of examining chimpanzee behavior, ecology, morphology, physiology, "language," intelligence, genetics and systematics we will learn how the scientific method helps us understand the natural world. Chimpanzees are a particularly informative species to anthropologists because they are far enough removed from humans that we can examine them more objectively than we can examine ourselves, yet they are so closely related to us that much of what we learn about our sister species applies to us, as well. Through films, labs and writing assignments we will get an intimate look at every aspect of chimpanzees.
Among the questions we will ask: Why do animals use - or not use - tools? Why are animals aggressive? What are the roots of war? How is chimp anatomy designed to solve food-getting problems? How does physiology influence what chimps can eat - and what's healthy to eat? Can chimps use language? Do chimpanzees use of medicine? Just how different are chimpanzee bones, muscles and brains from our own?
A series of labs will bring these issues home to students in the most intimate way possible. Students will be encouraged to eat a chimp diet for a day and to write about their cravings and the meaning of them. Students will keep a diary of their communication patterns and comment on the uses and meaning of language. The similarity of human and chimp disease will be investigated, and students will find out how they'd fare in a doctor-less chimp world. Chimpanzees are the door through which we will enter a world of science that will lead us to a better understanding of all of nature - and of ourselves.