Health Sciences Administration

April 9, 2014

“Your Inner Monkey” Airs on PBS, Filmed at WaNPRC & CHDD

Three-part series, “Your Inner Fish” traces more than 350 million years of human evolution to show how human bodies have taken shape. The show is based on a book by paleobiologist Neil Shubin, who also hosts the series.

Your Inner Fish is a scientific adventure that takes viewers from Ethiopia to the Arctic Circle on a hunt for the many ways that animal ancestors shaped our anatomical destiny. Shubin has spent much of his life searching for the deep pedigree of Homo sapiens. Using both the fossil record and DNA evidence, he traces various parts of our body’s structure to creatures that lived long, long ago. Along the way, he makes it clear that we can thank our fishy origins for many human characteristics.

The final episode in the series, “Your Inner Monkey,” was filmed in part the Washington National Primate Research Center’s Infant Primate Research Lab and Neitz Color Vision Lab at the Washington National Primate Research Center as well as the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD). While at WaNPRC facilities the crew captured the outstanding research of Drs. Tom Burbacher, Kim Grant, Jay Neitz and Maureen Neitz. The series segment will focus on discovering the difference in the rate of development between human and nonhuman primate infants and the origins of human color vision.

During this episode, Shubin delves into our primate past. He travels from the badlands of Ethiopia, where the famous hominid skeletons “Lucy” and “Ardi” were found, to a forest canopy in Florida, home to modern primates. En route, he explains how many aspects of our form and function evolved. We learn that a genetic mutation in our primate ancestors conferred humans’ ability to see in color — but it was an advantage that led to a decline in our sense of smell. The shape of our hands came from tree-dwelling ancestors for whom long fingers made it easier to reach fruit at the tips of fine branches. Shubin concludes by tracing the evolution of the human brain — from a tiny swelling on the nerve cord of a wormlike creature, to the three-part architecture of a shark’s brain and the complex brain of primates. As Shubin observes, “Inside every organ, gene and cell in our body lie deep connections with the rest of life on our planet.”

Visit to find air dates of this PBS series in your area. The site also includes classroom materials for further discussion.