Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived

Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived

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by Chip Walter
     
 

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Over the past 150 years scientists have discovered evidence that at least twenty-seven species of humans evolved on planet Earth. These weren't simply variations on apes, but upright-walking humans who lived side by side, competing, cooperating, sometimes even mating with our direct ancestors. Why did the line of ancient humans who eventually evolved into us survive… See more details below

Overview

Over the past 150 years scientists have discovered evidence that at least twenty-seven species of humans evolved on planet Earth. These weren't simply variations on apes, but upright-walking humans who lived side by side, competing, cooperating, sometimes even mating with our direct ancestors. Why did the line of ancient humans who eventually evolved into us survive when the others were shown the evolutionary door?

Chip Walter draws on new scientific discoveries to tell the fascinating tale of how our survival was linked to our ancestors being born more prematurely than others, having uniquely long and rich childhoods, evolving a new kind of mind that made us resourceful and emotionally complex; how our highly social nature increased our odds of survival; and why we became self aware in ways that no other animal seems to be. Last Ape Standing also profiles the mysterious "others" who evolved with us-the Neanderthals of Europe, the "Hobbits" of Indonesia, the Denisovans of Siberia and the just-discovered Red Deer Cave people of China who died off a mere eleven thousand years ago.

Last Ape Standing is evocative science writing at its best-a witty, engaging and accessible story that explores the evolutionary events that molded us into the remarkably unique creatures we are; an investigation of why we do, feel, and think the things we do as a species, and as people-good and bad, ingenious and cunning, heroic and conflicted.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Christine Kenneally
Walter takes an antic delight in the triumphal adaptations and terrifying near misses of human evolution…Last Ape Standing makes for a lively journey.
Publishers Weekly
With 27 species of humans having evolved over seven million years, Walter (Thumbs, Toes, and Tears) has quite a tale to tell. Unsurprisingly, this abbreviated work gives short shrift to much of that story. Like many others, Walter argues that neotony, "the retention of juvenile features in the adult animal," is most responsible for differences between humans and other hominids. His primary focus gets lost in lengthy digressions on tangential ideas from evolutionary psychology, like the development of morality and the aesthetics of beauty. He also loses credibility when he lapses into arguments grounded in the largely discredited theory of group selection. Similarly, his supposition that "small pockets" of Homo erectus descendants may have survived to the present day (well past their accepted expiration date 250,000 years ago) and that they might be responsible for yeti or Big Foot sightings removes his work from the arena of sound science. In the end, Walter posits that the next evolutionary step might be Cyber sapiens: immortal superhuman hybrids of humans and machines. Though intriguing, Walter's evolutionary treatise is too fantastic to be taken seriously. 10 b&w images, 8-page b&w insert. Agent: Peter Sawyer, the Fifi Oscard Agency. (Jan.)
Ray Kurzweil

Chip Walter's Last Ape Standing is provocative, insightful and engaging; a rare trifecta among science books. Nearly every page offers something that will surprise or intrigue you.
William Shatner

I read Last Ape Standing while sitting, then I jumped up and cheered. It's that good!
discoverer of Lucy and founding director of the In Donald Johanson

The saga of human evolution is far from a straight line from ape to angel, with all but one of many species going extinct. Chip Walter's thoroughly enjoyable new book considers the evolutionary and social forces that crafted us, modern humans, and presents an intriguing scenario of why Homo sapiens is the Last Ape Standing.
Michael Keaton

This book has a way of making you feel magnificently insignificant and at the same time an essential, vital part of the chain of human evolution. Just when you thought you were fully evolved as a human.....think again. Mind blowing stuff!
Booklist

[A] captivating and informative field trip through man's paleontological past...an exceptionally well-written overview of man's evolutionary history as well as an accessible guide to the underappreciated field of paleoanthropology.
ShelfAwareness

Whether reading as a student or simply somone interested in how we came to be who we are today, Last Ape Standing provides a captivating look at science's evidence of evolution.
New Yorker

[An] engaging accounts...shed[s] a fascinating light on our evolutionary success.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Chip Walter has made himself indispensable to audiences craving the latest information about our evolutionary past. No one wrties about early man, evolutionary dead ends or our pre-human rivals better than Chip Walter. If all science books were this witty and well-written, everyone would be a nerd.
New York Times Book Review

Walter takes an antic delight in the triumphal adaptations and terrifying near misses of human evolution...Last Ape Standing makes for a lively journey.
Kirkus Reviews
About 27 humanoid species roamed the Earth since splitting off from their ape ancestors 7 million years ago; more are turning up, but only one remains. Science journalist and former CNN bureau chief Walter (Thumbs, Toes, and Tears: And Other Traits That Make Us Human, 2006) delivers a mixture of fact, research and conjecture that describes how this happened. Anthropologists define humans as primates who walk upright, but the author focuses on another fundamental, if bizarre, difference--human species deliver children prematurely. Traditionally, teachers explain that this allows passage of our increasingly large skull and brain through the birth canal, but there is more to it. We are not only born as fetuses, but we keep infantile ape features (near-hairlessness, flatter faces, higher foreheads, a straight big toe) into adult life. Carrying the analogy further, Walter emphasizes that humans not only have an extended physical childhood (gorillas reach adulthood at 11), but we preserve the mental qualities of childhood: curiosity, adaptability, and the love of play, new experiences and experimentation. Our victory was not preordained, and three other brainy species shared the planet when the first Homo sapiens appeared 200,000 years ago. The first breakthroughs, tools and fire, occurred over 1 million years earlier, and we did not seem an improvement. More than another 100,000 years passed before Homo sapiens' burgeoning neural connections passed a tipping point that produced the language, culture, creativity and technology that enabled it to rule the world. The author offers a short epilogue about the "next human," writing, "short of another asteroid collision or global cataclysm, we will almost certainly become augmented versions of our current selves." Walter never explains precisely why our species stands alone, but few readers will complain at the end of this engrossing, up-to-date account of human evolution.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802778918
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
01/29/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
203,904
File size:
20 MB
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This product may take a few minutes to download.

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