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A bundle of passions equipped with a capacious intellect enmeshed in language...

The key to human nature is an unusual social adaptation we share with chimpanzees, and which therefore presumably characterized the sociality of our common ancestor, namely multi-male territoriality combined with female dispersal (female exogamy). This yields a situation in which males on a given territory are more closely related to one another than are resident females, accounting for peculiarities like male cooperativity and infanticide by female chimpanzees. To this was added, in the series of speciation events that issued in Homo erectus, male provisioning and bi-parental care to sustain the burden of large-brained, helpless infants with lengthy post-natal development, an investment underwritten by bonding of the mates. The general framework that formed our specific nature would accordingly have been some version of colonial monogamy, for which the richest set of models is to be found among birds and not primates. Such a setting may in turn help account for how we came into possession, alone among all apes and primates, of our distinctive capacity for vocal learning, essential for our singing and talking, but for little else in our behavioral repertoire.

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