Ancient Emotional Behaviors

Dinosaurs and the pre-mammals both appear just before the Great Dying. Both somehow survived. While still pre-mammals, a remarkable transition put lactation in place. Not long after the Great Dying, pre-mammals began the transition from cold- to warm-blooded. The female pre-mammals developed a placenta, setting up the final step: live birth. That lactation developed much earlier was finally used. At this point, they were mammals, not pre-mammals.

Each of these—lactation, warm-blooded, placenta, live birth—were giant steps in very small animals. This complex transition from reptile to mammal happened when the mammal was the prey, not the predator. Reptiles ruled. Generation after generation, the little parents must have stayed with the eggs and then the babies, providing warmth and moisture. A Darwinian cause is plausible; but parenting certainly seems to have played a role in these giant steps.

The comet 65 million years ago eliminated the predators; mammals were finally free.   Five million years later, a blink of the eye in geologic time, insects, lemurs, bats, primates, meat eaters, whales, dolphins and porpoises roamed the earth and swam in the oceans. Primates began the mammal line leading to us.

The monkeys were the first of the primates to veer off the evolutionary path that led to homo sapiens. This left the apes, including orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons and our predecessors. Slowly but surely, they separated. First went the gibbons, then orangutans, then the gorillas and finally the chimpanzees. Most are now endangered species.

Only our group, called hominids, remained. They walked upright. The brain had been enlarged during those four remarkable transitions to the first mammal. Instinctive responses were in the brain and still are. Evolved behaviors and emotions were stored there.

Early behaviors documented include fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation, communication and what appears to be a mysterious force of attraction. The difficult transition from amphibian to reptile and then reptile to mammal had a great deal of parenting involvement.

Elaborate mating rituals involve color, sound, and body movement. Mating and sex go together; research indicates animals enjoyed sex. Darwin wrote that “males drive away rival males … females excite or charm those of the opposite sex and select the most agreeable partner.” Social harmonies appeared. Some mammals stay with a mate for life, confirming once again that attraction exists between the genders. Sharing and cooperation become broader. Death was understood. Research shows the roots of empathy are embedded deeply in our evolved behaviors.

How well did those emotional behaviors evolved from Big Bang to hominids carry forward into Homo Sapiens? Hominids split off from chimpanzees, but did not leave their past behind them. Chimpanzee and human DNA have 98% in common. Those emotions developed before hominids split off represent a good deal of the commonality.   But did those developed emotional behaviors still exist after the new variable, language, was in place?

Physical appearance became more human-like. Advanced behaviors such as tools, cooking, and hunting equipment appeared. A number of groups appeared and moved onto a good deal of Europe, Asia and Africa. All eventually became extinct. Before all became extinct, though, homo sapiens had appeared. Unfortunately for them, environmental conditions were hostile.

A volcano eruption eliminated all but a small number of homo sapiens. Those that survived prospered and began populating the globe. By this time, they used tools, cooked their food, made jewelry, and made spears and bow and arrow for hunting.

As the summary in the previous section show, a substantial array of emotions and behaviors had been seen even before hominids appeared. The questions, remains, though: what effect did thought have on these ancient emotional insticts?

Populating the earth took a lot of time; those nomadic groups moved slowly. Traveling in groups, they lived off the plants and animals around them. Evidence also shows their behaviors were consistent with those passed onto hominids. Eventually, though, groups started connecting with one another, and civilizations appear.

To answer the question posed above, five groups – five civilizations from Europe, Asia and North America – will be followed from the time these independent groups began merging into larger groups.

As much information as possible was first gathered about the civilizations in India, China, Greece, and Israel. This information was expanded by drawing on the work of three widely-respected researchers. Information regarding the last group, the Native Americans, was gathered independently.

Based on what was seen, did those slowly evolving behaviors pass onto homo sapiens? Generally speaking, the answer is “yes.”

A More Developed Brain

For about 25 million years after the extinction the north hemisphere was warm and covered with abundant trees and vegetation. Tree filled forests flourished and the grasslands of today had not yet appeared. The mammal line to us was the primates. Those first primates adaptation to life in trees was unique. Their precise jumps from tree to tree demanded a more developed brain. Primate fossils of that time show small, squirrel-like animals with grasping hands and feet.

Too many people view “primate” and “monkey” as synonyms, which they are not. The distinction: monkeys had tails; they veered off the path leading to humans about 30 million years ago. The primates leading to us had stronger arms and shoulders but no tail. After the monkey veered off, the remainder of the primate group were the apes, including orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, gibbons and us.

Climate change and specie change worked together. The earth got cooler; those many forests needing heat changed to grasslands. Common ancestors that happened to be in rainforests or locations with thick tree cover, over time, tended to develop particular skills. These skills involved such things as excellence swinging from branch to branch with jumps, at times, of up to 50 feet. They needed to be fast to survive. Better eyesight was needed for this environment; paws became hands; and a larger brain was needed to keep track of all this.

Slowly but surely, one group became so different from the common ancestor group and launched a new specie. Some called these lesser apes; mostly they are called gibbons. In their current form, gibbons live mostly in southeast Asia.

In those same tree-rich areas, another group of the original common ancestor changed in a slightly different manner. Rather than swing from tree to tree, they grew larger and, to move from tree to tree, needed to go to the ground and walk, perhaps because this much-larger group lived near a grassland. Walking upright at times was more useful than being on four legs. Soon this group, now called orangutans, was distinctly different (such as they could no longer interbreed) and became a species of their own. Remaining orangutans can be found in the rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra.

The line of gorillas, the largest of this group, spun off about ten million years ago. Remaining ones are now mostly in central Africa. The next common ancestor, chimpanzees, deviated enough to be called their own species about four million years later. Millions of them use to live in tropical Africa, but habitat loss and over-hunting has left few alive. Both groups are endangered species, decimated by loss of habitat and serious overhunting by humans.

Our group was called the hominids. We were last group to leave that common ancestor. At that time, our group had upright posture, was bipedal, and had a larger brain. The time is about eight million years ago, and at that time, certainly did not look at all like humans do now.

Reptiles and fish were also evolving more developed brains. The reptilian brain was storing more than defensive instincts; animals by this time had displayed a wide variety of emotional behaviors which the brain caries from one evolutionary step to another. At the fish level was seen fear, learning, memory, parenting, caring for others, and seeking one another. Earlier, cooperation, communication and what appears to be a mysterious force of attraction.

The march from amphibian to reptile certainly appears to involve a great deal of devoted parenting. Scientists can indeed cobble together a Darwinian explanation, but the parenting behavior pursued over 60 million years must have had a strong motivator.

Sort of an interesting if off-topic fact: As the little mammals began some critical changes, ants evolved. In ant societies, worker ants give up their reproductive capability to care for the queen bee’s offspring. Research done at the University of Arizona shows any worker bee that cheats, and tries to reproduce, will be attacked by the other ants. The article’s author writes, “The idea that social harmony is dependent on strict systems to prevent and punish cheating individuals seems to apply to most successful societies.” Social harmony. In ants.

On the way from reptiles to the homo-group, emotional development made advances that will surprise many people. Warm-blooded birds stayed with the same mate for life, elaborately kept eggs warm and safe, and carried for helpless chicks. Birds display self-recognition (looking in a mirror and knowing who it is), which was previously thought to be only a human-only.

Now those emotions expand beyond just parenting into group perspectives, of animals living and interacting with other animals. When a bird’s own brood is destroyed, it may transfer its attention to the young of others; observations of birds feeding the young of other parents of the same species, and even of other species, are quite common. When Bekoff, a leader in the animal emotion field, was asked if animals enjoy sex, he responded, “Mosquitoes, I don’t know,” he hedged, “but across mammals, they enjoy sex.”   There is clearly more to genders seeking one another than a desire to create children.