Edited by Frans de Waal
Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us about Human Social Evolution

In this excellent introduction to primatology--especially as it relates to social evolution--de Waal has collected, edited, and synthesized the words of a number of specialists into a coherent whole. The text comes together much better than your typical collection of essays and will be of more interest to popular science readers than your typical collection of essays (which usually tend to be overly specialized and burdened with details and technical jargon). Numerous pictures are included and the chapters reference each other--two items which are unusual, but nice, for this kind of book.

De Waal's section doesn't offer much new if you have already read his book Bonobo. I suspect that many who haven't will want to after reading his essay here in Tree of Origin. There is a lot of sex talk (and pictures), especially in the first half of the essays. One of the themes in the remainder of the book deals with the correlation between socialization and intelligence. Outside of the insect world it appears that the larger the group size, the larger the brain becomes.

Wrangham's thesis that cooking was a powerful shaper of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens was intriguing to say the least. And Byrne's discussion of mind will be thought provoking and surprising for many who haven't read much in this area.

Fans of Chomsky and Pinker won't like Snowdon's essay "From Primate Communication to Human Language," but those of us looking for a more objective, less dogmatic account will. Finally, McGrew's essay provides an excellent wake up call to those with anthropocentrism (or even primatocentrism) with respect to culture.

Overall, I highly recommend Tree of Origin. Those interested in evolution, culture, and primates will certainly want to take a look.

from the publisher:
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 (Richard Byrne, Robin Dunbar, William McGrew, Anne Pusey, Charles Snowdon, Craig Stanford, Karen Strier, and Richard Wrangham are the others) 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.

Human behavior today is so unfathomable and complex that it's hard to relate it to influences from the remote past. But if you want a source that cogently discusses human intelligence in the context of the behavior of other primates, Tree of Origin is the place to turn. --Ian Tattersall, Curator, American Museum of Natural History and author of Becoming Human

The last few decades have seen enormous progress in the study of primate behavior. Nine of the world's leading experts team up to tell us what it all means, throwing new light on human evolution. --Jane Goodall

In Tree of Origin, primatologists speak out about the evolution of human behavior. After decades of hard work - all those hours in the sun, all those days of stomping though forests, all those years of watching monkeys and apes - they have come to provocative conclusions about how the behavior of our closest relatives informs our own lives. This book is the bridge between our past and our present. --Meredith Small, author of Kids: How Biology and Culture Shape the Way We Raise Our Children

Frans 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. His many books include Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals and Peacemaking among Primates.