New video footage captured by a research team has shown that chimps give birth in a similar fashion as humans with the newborn coming out of the birth canal, facing away from the mother.
The team, from Hayashibara Great Ape Research Institute in Okayama, Japan captured images and video footage of three live births of captive chimps. The team was so intent on the study that they even lived and slept in the same enclosure as the chimps to ensure not missing the births.
“We have been trying to keep strong relationship with the chimpanzees,” lead researcher Satoshi Hirata said. “We stayed in the room when they gave birth, so we could record the behaviour with a camera from very close distance.”
Scientists had earlier believed that this birthing position was unique to humans and had evolved in the primate ancestors of humans. In primates that have not evolved into humans, like monkeys the birthing position of the infant is facing the mother. This allows the mother to safely lift the baby and clear its breath passage after birth.
Scientist thought that the human birthing position was evolved and it generated the need for midwifery. The present research though negates the point.
“Anthropologists have argued that the fact that human babies are born facing away from the mothers have led to [the need for] ‘midwifery’,” said Dr Hirata. “But our observation tells us that this is not true. We tend to think that we are unique, without knowing [enough] about other animals.”
The researcher though also did not contradict the point that the three births they saw could be exception to general rules.
“But [all of] the cases were similar in terms of the direction of the face and shoulders when they emerged,” said the researcher which appears to be a ‘normal’ way of birth regulated by the chimp’s anatomy.
If the findings are proved with further studies, this could change the way human evolution is interpreted. – Atula, Staff Writer