From Publishers Weekly
Lovers' quarrels and murder, greed and social climbing: baboon society has all the features that make a mainstream novel a page-turner. The question Cheney and Seyfarth (How Monkeys See the World
) ask, however, is more demanding: how much of baboon behavior is instinctive, and how much comes from actual thought? Are baboons self-aware? To find answers, the authors spent years observing a clan of baboons in Botswana's Moremi Game Reserve. Like most primates, baboons are social creatures, living in large groups of 100, where individual rank—and the ability to claim food or a mate—is based on a complex web of birth and consort relationships. Cheney and Seyfarth pepper their descriptions with surprisingly apt literary comparisons, such as the example of a baboon who runs afoul of a higher-ranking member and receives much the same treatment as an unwitting character in an Edith Wharton novel. Along the way we get a good look at the state of current primate research on intelligence and learn why scientists think the human brain is still unique. While describing important research about baboon cognition and social relations, this book charms as much as it informs. 50 b&w photos, 1 line drawing. (May)
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Charles Darwin once observed, "He who understands baboons would do more towards metaphysics than Locke." In other words, to understand the evolution of the human mind we must study the minds of our closest relatives. Primatologists^B Cheney and Seyfarth (How Monkeys See the World
, 1990) have studied the same troop of chacma baboons since 1992, and here they demonstrate the importance of their social behavior. Living in a world of predators, baboons must rely on each other for safety, and the resulting large groups they live in are perfect hotbeds of complicated relationships. Matrilineal groups of females retain status by helping their own kin, whereas males act individually and for themselves. Females form short-term bonds with males for mating and long-term friendships with the same or other males for protection. But how do baboons view the world? How do they decide who to associate with, who to defer to, and who to dominate? Cheney and Seyfarth discuss these and other related questions in a style that both explains complex concepts and challenges the reader. Nancy BentCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved