Animal minds Convergent evolution Intelligent Design

Convergent evolution: Psychology Association says killer whales share personality traits with humans, chimps

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killer whales/NOAA

Using a five-factor test. Convergent evolution is cited:

Researchers found that the personality traits of killer whales were similar to those of both humans and chimpanzees but more similar to chimpanzees. Killer whales were similar to chimpanzees and humans for the extraversion factor (e.g., playful, gregarious and sociable). Killer whales and chimpanzees also shared a combination of personality traits for conscientiousness (e.g., constant, stubborn and protective) and agreeableness (e.g., patient, peaceable and not bullying), along with some personality traits relating to dominance.

The findings may suggest some evolutionary convergence where the personality traits of killer whales and primates are similar because of the advanced cognitive abilities required for complex social interactions. “Killer Whales Share Personality Traits with Humans, Chimpanzees” at American Psychological Association

Too bad dogs and horses were not also measured because they would likely show those traits too. This research demonstrates that the qualities that one might expect to find in mammals living in a closely-knit group. But here’s the conundrum: If humans, chimps, and killer whales all show a trait, why study chimpanzees — as is so often done — in order to better understand it in humans? That is, if convergence on a common goal is a reasonable explanation, what specific question is answered by claims of common descent?

Convergent evolution is, of course, a better explanation for similar psychological traits than common descent. Dogs and horses, for example, are drawn to humans; chimps are not. Dogs and horses are not drawn to chimps either. Studying the relationships that do exist, we will likely find that humans can substitute for something dogs and horses seek in their peers and thus supplant the natural relationship. But that is because a similar type of relationship exists, convergently, among humans.


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See also: BBC: Chimpanzees show empathy and altruism just like humans. And politicians can learn from them. Reality: Chimpanzees don’t seek humans out the way dogs do. In many ways, dogs are more like humans than chimpanzees are and better able to communicate with us emotionally. Dogs don’t seek out chimpanzees, come to think of it, though recently, some researchers needed to convince themselves that something like that was happening between monkeys and wolves. (Uh, no.)


Evolution appears to converge on goals—but in Darwinian terms, is that possible?

3 Replies to “Convergent evolution: Psychology Association says killer whales share personality traits with humans, chimps

  1. 1
    vmahuna says:

    One of my absolute FAVORITE Wild Life shows was a special about The World’s Greatest Expert on some flavor of whale that “wintered over” off the coast of southern Argentina. The World’s Greatest Expert did ALL of his “observing” standing on the beach looking through binoculars. His Most Important Discovery was that some of the whales, from time to time, would lift their tails completely out of the water and HOLD it up for extended periods of time.

    Having never seen any similar behavior in any other marine mammal, he composed a Theory that Whales Use Their Flukes as SAILS. Yes, gentle readers, The World’s Greatest Expert insisted that during all those long migrations normal swimming was supplemented by Sailing.

    About a year later I saw a show by some OTHER guys who actually had a BOAT (of all things, using a BOAT to observe sea-dwelling creatures. Whodda thunk-it?). And they took their inflatable boat RIGHT OUT AMONGST THE WHALES. And what did THEY observe?

    Well, it seems that only FEMALE whales lift their tails. And female whales lift their tails because it is impossible for a male whale to MATE with a female who has her tail up. (Why am I suddenly thinking “He can’t get a piece of tail…”?) In no case did they observe a MALE whale lift his tail.

    Lifting her tail is clearly exhausting, but some she-whales could perform the feat for more than an hour. Clearly signalling in Whale-ish (Welsh?), “Buzz off, fella. I’m waiting for Mr. Right.”

    After that I lost a LOT of respect for idiot Biologists who land grants to do odd bits of field work so they can write up their Discoveries.

  2. 2
    EDTA says:

    I would have expected killer whales to rate high in psychopathy/sociopathy.

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    EDTA – I guess this means that killer whales play with their food first.

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