The Open University since 2006
Alternatively you can skip the navigation by pressing 'Enter'.
Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the DeepTuesday, 31st May 2016 09:00 - EdenLife under the waves. Read more: Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the Deep
Life - with David Attenborough: PlantsTuesday, 31st May 2016 10:00 - Eden
Life - with David Attenborough: PrimatesTuesday, 31st May 2016 11:00 - Eden
Life - with David Attenborough: Creatures of the DeepTuesday, 31st May 2016 16:00 - Eden
The Educators: Series 2: What Finland Did NextAvailable for over a yearFinland has one of the highest-performing education systems in the world, yet it is overhauling the way schools teach... Read more: The Educators: Series 2: What Finland Did Next
All in the Mind - Summer 2016: Microbes in relation to mood; Depressed cake shop and Perils of perceptionAvailable until Wednesday, 31st May 2017 00:00
The Educators: Series 2: Character LessonsAvailable for over a year
Thinking Allowed 2016: 'Queer' wars, Nigerian beauty pageantsAvailable for over a year
Life - with David AttenboroughDavid Attenborough explores the vibrant mix of life found on our plant - where it comes from, and... Read more: Life - with David Attenborough
Take the photographic memory testCan you capture scenes just by looking at them? Find out with our photographic memory test. Launch now: Take the photographic memory test
Una lengua en movimientoThis free course will develop your knowledge and understanding of the societies and cultures of... Try: Una lengua en movimiento now
Start writing fictionHave you always wanted to write, but never quite had the courage to start? This free course,... Try: Start writing fiction now
Who were our ancestors? How are apes and humans related? And where does the extinct Homo erectus fit into the puzzle? In this free course, Studying mammals: Food for thought, we will examine culture, tool use and social structure in both apes and humans to gain an understanding of where we come from and why we behave as we do. This is the tenth course in the Studying mammals series.
After studying this course, you should be able to:
- describe features of apes, and features that distinguish Homo from apes
- explain an evolutionary tree for hominines that shows one interpretation of the evolution of Homo from ape-like ancestors, australopithecines
- use what is known about social group structure in living species of ape to suggest social group structure in extinct species
- interpret features of apes, australopithecines, and Homo species in terms of adaptations
- understand the roots of those features that make Homo sapiens different from other mammal species.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 The apes and their relationship to humans
- 2 Variable structure of ape societies
- 3 Tool use and culture in ape and human societies
- 4 Who were the ancestors of Homo?
- 5 Who were the ancestors of Homo sapiens?
- 6 Modern Homo sapiens
- 7 The threat of extinction
- Keep on learning
Study this free course
Enrol to access the full course, get recognition for the skills you learn, track your progress and on completion gain a statement of participation to demonstrate your learning to others. Make your learning visible!
Studying mammals: Food for thought
In this course, we will explore the fascinating question of who our ancestors were. I'll be looking at living species of apes in order to pick up clues about social structure and lifestyle in our ancestors and gain some understanding about why we humans behave as we do. I'll discuss tool use and culture in both ape and human societies, and look at two ancient species known only from their fossils - an australopithecine and Homo erectus.
This is the tenth in a series of units about studying mammals. To get the most from these units, you will need access to a copy of The Life of Mammals (2002) by David Attenborough, BBC Books (ISBN 0563534230), and The Life of Mammals (2002) on DVD, which contains the associated series of ten BBC TV programmes. OpenLearn course S182_8 Studying mammals: life in the trees contains samples from the DVD set. You should begin each course by watching the relevant TV programme on the DVD and reading the corresponding chapter in The Life of Mammals. You will be asked to rewatch specific sequences from the programme as you work through the course.
This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in
This free course includes adapted extracts from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Natural History courses or view the range of currently available OU Natural History courses.
Copyright & revisions
Originally published: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
Last updated on: Wednesday, 16th March 2016
- Creative-Commons: The Open University is proud to release this free course under a Creative Commons licence. However, any third-party materials featured within it are used with permission and are not ours to give away. These materials are not subject to the Creative Commons licence. See terms and conditions. Full details can be found in the Acknowledgements and our FAQs section.
- This site has Copy Reuse Tracking enabled - see our FAQs for more information.
If you enjoyed this, why not follow a feed to find out when we have new things like it? Choose an RSS feed from the list below. (Don't know what to do with RSS feeds?)
Remember, you can also make your own, personal feed by combining tags from around OpenLearn.
All our alternative formats are free for you to download, for more information about the different formats we offer please see our FAQs. The most frequently used are Word (for accessibility), PDF (for print) and ePub and Kindle to download to eReaders*.
- Word (1.7 MB)
- PDF (3.2 MB)
- ePub 3.0 (1.4 MB)
- ePub 2.0 (1.4 MB)
- Kindle (650 KB)
- RSS (216 KB)
- HTML (1.1 MB)
- SCORM (1.1 MB)
- OUXML Package (30 KB)
- OUXML File (91 KB)
- IMS Common cartridge
- Moodle backup (1.3 MB)
*Please note you will need an ePub and Mobi reader for these formats.