Are Humans Really a Type of Animal?
What Do We Mean By Animals?
Scientists classify life in a few different ways, putting aside simple and single celled organisms like bacteria, one simple way to classify all life forms as animal, plant, fungi, or algae (red and green).
On a cellular level plants, algae, fungi, and animals are all made of complex cells called eukaryotes which have mitochondria in them. Plants and [most] algae also have chloroplasts in their cells, yet fungi and animals don’t.
We can be very certain that humans are not plants or algae with chloroplasts from our cells on up. We can prove this biologically, or we can use reason. So that leaves Fungi (and technically some odd algaes).
Funnily enough, fungi and animals have a lot in common. With that said, we don’t have to go into details to realize that we fit better in the animal kingdom than “the mushroom kingdom.” Thus, we as humans, in terms of classifications based on defining features, are a type of animal (an animal of the species mammal specifically).
|Without Chloroplasts||With Chloroplasts|
NOTE: The video below describes the concept of humans being animals by asking, “Are you animal, vegetable, or mineral?” A mineral being a catch-all for non-living elemental based forms.
Are humans animals? Good question, double check you aren’t a plant or mineral and get back to us.
What Do We Mean By Mammal?
Mammal, coming from the Latin word for “breast”, describes a kind of animal that has hair, breasts, a neocortex (the part of our brain dealing with conscious thought and language), and some other unique properties like three middle ear bones and a four chamber heart. In short, we know humans are animals, and we know we aren’t spiders, insects, reptiles, or birds… So we are mammals.
How Else Can We Classify Humans?
So we know humans are mammals, but what type of mammals are we?
Although I’ve seen different classifications, humans can be said to be:
- From the Kingdom Animalia (i.e. Animals).
- From the Genus Homo.
- From the Species Sapien.
- From the Class Mammalia (i.e. Mammals).
- From the Subclass Theria (give live birth to young).
- From the Infraclass Epitheria (also referred to placental, because mothers carry unborn children nurturing them via the umbilical cord and placenta).
- From the Order Primate.
- From the Family Hominidae (which includes humans, greater apes, lesser apes).
NOTE: Wikipedia lists the Suborder: Haplorhini and Infraorder: Simiiformes. The terms order/class are interchangeable.
What Do Evolutionarily Biologists Believe?
Evolutionary biologists believe that we have genetically evolved from other animals; this is roughly where the classifications of different animal types come from. Generally, the closer in the class an animal is the closer relative they are. Scientists don’t just believe this based on Darwin’s ideas, they believe this from studying cells and DNA, which show similarities that would be expected based on the theory of evolution.
Many also believe that all animals genetically evolved from single celled organisms. They believe all organisms are made of quarks, which make atoms, which make molecules, which make elements, which make us. They also believe that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It has always, and will always exist.
What are the Differences Between a Human and an Ape?
Humans and apes are both hominoids and have a lot of things that make them the same like language, communicating, making or using tools, learning, emotion, and more. Humans have a few unique traits that make them different than any other animal including apes.
A look at the difference between humans and other animals from the Royal Institution.
What Makes Humans Different From Other Animals?
Two of key traits that differentiate us from any other animal:
- Our ability to use language and written word to advance knowledge intergenerationally.
- Our ability to use critical thinking and morality when making judgment calls.
For instance a human might think, given the above, eating mammalian muscle tissue (meat) is morally wrong and decide to get the bulk of their nutrition from soybeans. This may be true even if that person doesn’t like soybeans and has to order them from Amazon by communicating with a call center in India. A monkey would probably not take these actions. Although to be fair, the monkey isn’t a meat eater in the first place.