Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution / Edition 1

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How did we become the linguistic, cultured, and hugely successful apes that we are? Our closest relatives—the other mentally complex and socially skilled primates—offer tantalizing clues. In Tree of Origin nine of the world's top primate experts read these clues and compose the most extensive picture to date of what the behavior of monkeys and apes can tell us about our own evolution as a species.

It has been nearly fifteen years since a single volume addressed the issue of human evolution from a primate perspective, and in that time we have witnessed explosive growth in research on the subject. Tree of Origin gives us the latest news about bonobos, the "make love not war" apes who behave so dramatically unlike chimpanzees. We learn about the tool traditions and social customs that set each ape community apart. We see how DNA analysis is revolutionizing our understanding of paternity, intergroup migration, and reproductive success. And we confront intriguing discoveries about primate hunting behavior, politics, cognition, diet, and the evolution of language and intelligence that challenge claims of human uniqueness in new and subtle ways.

Tree of Origin provides the clearest glimpse yet of the apelike ancestor who left the forest and began the long journey toward modern humanity.

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Editorial Reviews


Are we so separate from our nearest relatives that studying apes' behavior has nothing to teach us about ourselves? Or does watching how apes interact socially give us clues about our own evolution? The authors come down solidly on the side of the applicability of primate studies to the study of humans. Growing from a 1997 conference on human evolution, this selection of nine essays by working primatologists include speculations about the origins of human social evolution from the perspective of their studies on other primates...All of the essays are accessible to the general reader.

New Scientist

De Waal's is just one of a fascinating bunch of essays by primatologists in Tree of Origin. They re-examine human social evolution from the perspective of naturalistic observations of non-human primates, and then extrapolate to humans.
— Laura Spinney

Washington Post Book World

[An] enlightening discussion of how scientists' ideas about human forebears have been shaped—and perhaps led astray—by extrapolations from intensive study of a few primates. Whether you are interested in human origins or in how other animals live their lives, [this book] is a superb synthesis of current thinking and research about our closest nonhuman relatives.
— Susan Okie

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nine of the world's leading primatologists come together in this engaging volume to discuss many of the evolutionary forces that have created Homo sapiens. Edited by the eminent de Waal (The Ape and the Sushi Master, Forecasts, Feb. 19) of Emory University, all nine essays find an appropriate middle ground neither too technical nor too simplistic. Each also summarizes the current state of research into some aspect of primate behavior and what we can learn from it about the evolution of human life and culture. The acquisition, distribution and preparation of food is central to the contributions by Craig Stanford and Richard Wrangham. Stanford argues that collaborative hunting may be responsible for the development of social intelligence, while Wrangham cogently links the discovery of cooking to the creation of the human mating system. Richard Byrne's contribution discusses the evolution of human intelligence by examining patterns of tool use and food manipulation in living primates. Charles Snowdon explores the twin concepts of communication and language by looking broadly across the animal kingdom and wrestling with the question of whether or not there is such a thing as a language instinct. William McGrew does much the same for culture, effectively demonstrating that humans can no longer be considered the sole purveyors of culture. With nine separate essays, it is not surprising that a fair amount of repetition occurs, but the strengths clearly outweigh the shortcomings in this provocative book. (Apr. 30) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Here, noted primatologist de Waal (Chimpanzee Politics) invited scientists who participated in a 1997 symposium on primate behavior and human social behavior to shed new light on the origins of human evolution. The authors draw on their collective years of research observing nonhuman primates to find comparisons between primates and man in such areas as ecology, sex and reproduction, social organization, culture, cognition, language, and hominization. Since the great apes are the nonhuman primates most closely related to humans genetically, they are the primary subject of the studies in this volume. Dr. Karen Strier broadens the horizon with her study of the muriqui, a South American monkey. While each primatologist competently addresses the subject of human origins, their theories vary and sometimes even clash. The individual pieces are intriguingly interesting, but the whole complex puzzle remains unsolved. The text is supplemented with research notes from each author. For academic and larger science collections. Raymond Hamel, Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Ctr. Lib., Madison Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674004603
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Frans B. M. de Waal is C. H. Candler Professor of Primate Behavior in the Psychology Department and Director of Living Links, part of the Yerkes Primate Center, Emory University.

Robin Dunbar is Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology and Director of the Institute of Cognitive & Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford.

William McGrew is Professor of Anthropology and Zoology at Miami University (Ohio).

Craig B. Stanford is Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology and Co-Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at the University of Southern California.

Karen B. Strier is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Richard W. Wrangham is Ruth Moore Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

Frans B. M. de Waal


1. Anne E. Pusey

Of Genes and Apes: Chimpanzee Social Organization and Reproduction

2. Frans B. M. de Waal

Apes from Venus: Bonobos and Human Social Evolution

3. Karen B. Strier

Beyond the Apes: Reasons to Consider the Entire Primate Order

4. Craig S. Stanford

The Ape's Gift: Meat-eating, Meat-sharing, and Human Evolution

5. Richard W. Wrangham

Out of the Pan, Into the Fire: How Our Ancestors' Evolution Depended on What They Ate

6 Richard W. Byrne

Social and Technical Forms of Primate Intelligence

7. Robin I. M. Dunbar

Brains on Two Legs: Group Size and the Evolution of Intelligence

8. Charles T. Snowdon

From Primate Communication to Human Language

9. William C. McGrew

The Nature of Culture: Prospects and Pitfalls of Cultural Primatology


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