Anthropology, Biology, Reviews

Review: Cheney and Seyfarth, Baboon Metaphysics

jacket imageDorothy Cheney and Richard Seyfarth’s new book, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, has received several notable reviews over the past month. Writing in the May 19 issue of New Scientist primatologist Frans de Waal notes the the author’s insightful study of baboons’ social organization, and the implications of their research in gaining a better understanding of our own human society. Steven Poole also reviewed the book for the May 12 issue of the Guardian noting the book’s entertaining study of the often dramatic social lives of these primates. Poole writes:

What have years of observing wild baboons in Botswana taught the authors about [baboon’s] social thinking and learning abilities? The vivid narrative is like a bush detective story, as the authors conduct ingenious experiments, setting up loudspeakers to play back prerecorded baboon calls (the baboons recognize individual voices, and act surprised if a sequence indicates a violation of rank), or lament the loss of their favorites to lions and leopards. The detail of how baboons keep track of the, er, grunting order is almost novelistic, as we track social peaks and troughs in their lives, and the authors’ conclusions have intriguing implications for the evolution of language in humans.

Read an excerpt from the book.