The Well-Dressed Ape
A Natural History of OurselvesHannah Holmes
1 December 2009
Published by Atlantic Books
The ‘Well-Dressed Ape’, aka Homo sapiens, is a strange mammal. It mates remarkably often and with unprecedented affection. With comparable enthusiasm, it will eat to the point of undermining its own health – unlike any other animal in the wild. The human marks its territory with doors, fences and garden gnomes, yet if it becomes too isolated it becomes depressed. It thinks of itself as complex, intelligent, and in every way both different from and superior to other animals – but is it, really?
In this riveting and revealing field guide to the human animal, Hannah Holmes surveys the evidence. She shows that monogamy is mostly overrated: female birds that cheat on their partners have bigger brains, and female chimps go out on the equivalent of Girls’ Nights Out; that while humans can contact each other using complex lumps of plastic, spiders can send each other messages by plucking web strings, and some fish communicate by clicking their teeth, or strumming body parts; and that most animals lie – the baby baboon is notoriously devious, and ‘cries wolf’ to avoid its mother’s wrath.
The Well-Dressed Ape is an entirely engrossing and eye-opening study of that oddest and yet most engaging of primates: ourselves. It will change the way you look at yourself – and other animals – forever.