Watching an orangutan sleep is like watching a giant, orange baby slumbering sweetly.
These huge great apes like to get into bed, and nestle down for a long and deep night’s sleep, their eyes occasionally dancing behind their eyelids, perhaps dreaming a fleeting orangutan’s dream.
Watching a baboon sleep is more like watching a small bitter paranoid person desperately trying to get some shut eye.
They sleep badly; sitting upright, balancing on their bottoms, minds whirring, constantly fearful that something or someone is after them.
Which begs an important question: why does an orangutan sleep so soundly, whereas its primate relative, the baboon, suffers a fretful night’s rest?
The answers, scientists are learning, are rooted deep in our evolutionary history. They help explain, in part, how great apes including humans were able to evolve into the beings we are today, and also why humans routinely prefer to sleep in beds.
To date, every population of wild great ape studied builds platforms to sleep on. Gorillas, orangutans, chimps and bonobos create nesting platforms in the trees, whereas modern humans construct beds to lie on.
But every other type of primate does not sleep this way.
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