The unique animal and plant species on Madagascar like this Verreaux's sifaka, a type of lemur, face a changing climate that could make parts of their island unsuitable for the species living there now. Credit: Martina Lippuner/WWF
Our unique attributes evolved over a period of roughly 6 million years. They represent modifications of great ape attributes that are roughly 10 million years old, primate attributes that are roughly 55 million years old, mammalian attributes that are roughly 245 million years old, vertebrate attributes that are roughly 600 million years old, and attributes of nucleated cells that are perhaps 1,500 million years old. If you think it is unnecessary to go that far back in the tree of life to understand our own attributes, consider the humbling fact that we share with nematodes (tiny wormlike creatures) the same gene that controls appetite. At most, our unique attributes are like an addition onto a vast multiroom mansion. It is sheer hubris to think that we can ignore all but the newest room.