But Stanford University anthropologist David DeGusta points out that several species of primates have been observed to care for abnormal young. That's a different type of behavior, he said, from adults caring for other adults.
"The survival of an infant with significant pathology has been observed in a range of primate species," he wrote in an e-mail to Wired.com. "Extra caregiving behavior towards such infants has been documented in wild monkeys. Caring for infants is, after all, a key adaptation of mammals in general."
Several studies have shown that young, deformed primates were cared for by their mothers anyway, he said. For example, a 1973 paper reported that blind macaque infants were cared for by their mothers for up to a year.
. . .
DeGusta also had a more methodological objection to many studies that attempt to infer behavior from skeletal remains.
"We just know that this individual survived. We don't know the circumstances," he said. "I'm not saying their interpretation is unreasonable, but we're trying to do science, so we have to ask, 'How would we know that we were wrong?'"
It is interesting that people seem to start with the assumption that early humans of course didn't care for the sick
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