"These people claim that because chimpanzees share 98 percent of humans' DNA material that means they must be 98 percent like us psychologically," he said. "But chimpanzees are not human beings running around in hairy suits."
While chimps can be taught to push the "right" button on a computer, they certainly cannot be taught anything resembling human communication. In contrast, the typical human 2-year-old learns an average of 300 new words every month, he said.
And while dolphins use sonar to identify different objects underwater and have an "amazing ability" to identify the consistency of the material of which an object is made, Wynne said, they don't communicate as humans do to exchange information.
Even the sexual habits of dolphins have been fodder for fallacies. "Have you ever heard that dolphins are the only species apart from humans that engage in sex for pleasure and not for procreation?" Wynne asked. "I've heard this so many times I always ask, 'So you mean that other animal species know when they're having sex that they're doing it in order to have offspring?'" At least among Australian dolphins sex is quite violent, with most females coerced into the activity, he said.
Another misunderstood critter is the Central American vampire bat, which, contrary to its foreboding name, happens to be the only nonhuman species to reciprocate goodwill, Wynne said. Vampire bats that don't get a blood meal once every third night die, he said, so if a bat goes back to the roost without one, it will beg from another, which will regurgitate blood to share.
"People have studied this in great detail, hanging around at the bottom of the roost, getting covered with bat guano," Wynne said. "And it turns
Contact: Clive Wynne
University of Florida