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Book reviews Feeding Ecology in Apes and Other Primates Ecological physiological and behavioral aspects.

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Book Reviews
ANCESTORS. By Ann Gibbons. New York: Doubleday.
2006. 306 pp. ISBN 0-385-51226-0. $26.00 (cloth).
In 1937, Ernest Hooton wrote, ‘‘The psychology of the
individual discoverer or original describer of a specimen of
fossil man is a very important factor in coloring the interpretation of any find’’ (Apes, Men and Morons, p 112).
Now, Ann Gibbons has written about this phenomenon in
the quest to document the fossil record of human origins.
However, she has also documented why and how paleoanthropologists find fossils, the historical contexts of fossil
discoveries, and the data on which discoverers base their
conclusions. Even so, her book is about the paleoanthropologists themselves, their motivations and interactions,
as each pursues the Holy Grail of human evolution, the
earliest hominin fossil.
Does Gibbons’s book end with the real first human standing up? No, because this ancestor has yet to do so. Since
1994, Australopithecus anamensis, Ardipithecus ramidus,
Ardipithecus kedabba, Orrorin tugenensis, and Sahelanthropus tchadensis have been announced, extending the hominin
fossil record by over two million years to more than six million years ago. As Gibbons notes, only scattered early specimens, such as the Tabarin mandible, Lothagam jaw, and
Lukeino molar, were known previously. Gibbons documents
this remarkable decade of discovery in both historical and
human context replete with extensive factual details and
engaging prose. To my knowledge, there is no other single
source for all of this information.
Gibbons uses the geologically earliest of these fossils, the
Toumaı̈ cranium from Chad featured on the dust jacket, as
a starting point from which to recount the history of East
and West African early hominin fossil discovery. The First
Human begins with an introduction to Michel Brunet’s discovery of Toumaı̈ and introduces some of the paleoanthropologists and controversies featured later in the book. In Part 1,
‘‘Ancient Footsteps,’’ Gibbons steps back to set the stage with
the history of human origins studies from DuBois and Dart
through the discovery of Lucy and the Hadar hominids and
ends with how some current disagreements among researchers got their start. Part 2, ‘‘The Decade of Discovery,’’ then
describes the remarkable wealth of fossils discovered since
1994 and interactions among their discoverers. Part 3,
‘‘Wisdom of the Bones,’’ wraps up the story as it currently
stands by returning to Toumaı̈. The book ends with a quote
from Brunet that could come from anyone profiled here,
‘‘More will be coming’’ (p 243).
Gibbons has a unique relationship with the field of
paleoanthropology. She is not a paleoanthropologist but a
writer who has contributed more than 80 articles on discoveries in human evolution to Science. The First Human
essentially is a compilation of these stories, expanded and
embellished with earlier history and broader context.
That Gibbons is not a scientist is both a shortcoming and
an asset. She lacks a detailed understanding of the comparative anatomy on which scientists’ conclusions and
opinions are based. Thus, she must rely on what they
write and say. That said, Gibbons has worked hard over
many years to understand the field and has watched
developments unfold since at least 1990. She regularly
C 2007
attends professional meetings, having covered many for
Science. There, and throughout the year, she talks with as
many people as she can about what they think has happened, what is happening, what will happen, and their
opinions. She has heard at least most sides of each story,
seen many original fossils, and been out in the field. The
science she presents is reasonable, accurate, and explained clearly enough in terms understandable to those
outside the discipline. Her position as a writer is an asset
because, as a nonscientist, she has no agenda or perspective to promote other than enthusiasm for hominin paleoanthropology. This also makes the book more accessible to
those outside the field.
The people described in this book are driven to discover,
and their passion comes forth in this book. Gibbons recognizes their positive motivations and describes the initial
fascination each had with the field. Many profiled here
were interested in natural history as kids, and an intriguing number were inspired by reading in National Geographic about the Leakeys’ discoveries at Olduvai. These
histories and Gibbons’s frank descriptions of the appearance and mannerisms of the scientists she profiles bring a
human touch to her narrative. Her descriptions and
impressions of people appear reasonably accurate.
I appreciate the fact that although Gibbons’s story is
more about the people than the science involved, she does
not reduce paleoanthropology to a soap opera. True, some
people may not always play nice, and she does not shy
away from some uncomfortable dealings. This book features stories of competition but also of cooperation. Gibbons has the grace to leave out some sordid details but
includes most major events. She does her best to avoid taking sides, although her opinions do come out in places. I
applaud her respect for the scholars involved but also
know that there is more behind some of the discoveries
and science than appears here. This includes researchers
and members of field teams not featured in the book,
although Gibbons acknowledges that any omissions were
for the sake of narrative.
The First Human is an excellent choice for anyone who
wants to know about the latest discoveries of early hominin fossils. It also is an excellent choice for anyone interested in the people doing the discovering, their histories,
interrelationships, motivations, discoveries, and interpretations. Readers will gain an appreciation for the hard
work and science of paleoanthropology and the passion
that drives it. As it goes on, the story of the quest to discover our origins only becomes more interesting. After all,
as sociologist Max Weber said, ‘‘Every scientific fulfillment
raises new questions; it asks to be surpassed and outdated’’ (‘‘Science as a vocation,’’ in Essays in Sociology
[1946], p 129). This is just what paleoanthropologists will
continue do, and Gibbons’s story is not over.
Department of Pathology and
Anatomical Sciences
University of Missouri
Columbia, MO
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20625
Published online 12 October 2007 in Wiley InterScience
by Gottfried Hohmann, Martha M. Robbins, and
Christophe Boesch. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press. 2006. 523 pp. ISBN 0-521-85837-2. $130.00
This volume synthesizes posters and talks presented at
a 2004 conference at the Max Planck Institute for
Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. Admittedly, it is
not a presentation-by-presentation compilation of the proceedings but rather a reworking of topics and discussions
that arose from this conference on ape and primate feeding ecology. The title emphasizes hominoid feeding ecology, and the first section provides recent information on
allopatric and sympatric hominoids in well established
and newly established field sites. Nevertheless, the theoretical issues and methods that are explored will resonate
with primatologists and evolutionary anthropologists
working with all primate taxa.
The book is divided into three parts, with introductory
chapters providing some historical context and an outline
of each section’s contributions. Robbins and Hohmann’s
introduction to the text is a strong overview of the state of
ape and other primate feeding ecology and methodological
approaches for the future. Part I, ‘‘Field Studies,’’ compiles recent studies on the African apes as well as a contribution by Perry and Jiménez on white-faced capuchin visual attention to the foraging of conspecifics. Rodman’s
introduction to this section provides some historical context and discusses the pitfalls and achievements of field
studies of ape feeding ecology. Comparing the methodological approaches of the subsequent chapters would be a
valuable exercise for an upper level course on primate
ecology. This would reveal the methodological difficulties
encountered in the field that arise from variable habitats
and degrees of habituation. All the contributions in this
section, particularly that by Hohmann et al., detail methods used to measure food availability and abundance. The
first four contributions demonstrate the role of fruit availability and abundance in shaping ape foraging strategies
and reemphasize the importance of herbaceous material
in the diets of gorillas; the importance of ripe fruit in the
diets of chimpanzees; and the relative dietary flexibility of
cercopithecines, which use both ripe and unripe fruit.
Hohmann et al.’s contribution is one of the more compelling due to its detailed exploration of food availability and
the amount of antifeedants (i.e., defensive secondary compounds in plants) in the diets of bonobos and chimpanzees. More antifeedants were identified in the diet of
bonobos, suggesting that an inability among chimpanzee
to digest certain secondary compounds may influence
group structure and gregariousness in Pan. The study by
Pruetz is also of particular interest given the woodland
habitat of her study species, Pan troglodytes verus.
Although her Senegalese site is relatively new and the
apes are not well habituated, information on their rather
restricted fruit diet provides data for the development of
models of early hominin evolution. Boesch et al., in turn,
quantify differences in food preference as they relate to
food availability to more rigorously assess possible cultural differences in food use among chimpanzee communities. The final contribution from Perry and Jiménez,
while possibly better placed in the more theoretically oriAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
ented second section, is an interesting exploration of the
effects of food size, abundance, and physical complexity
on capuchin visual attention.
Wrangham’s introduction to Part II successfully identifies the central findings and hypotheses presented in this
theoretically oriented section. He also notes that studies of
primate feeding ecology are relatively nascent, a point
more thoroughly argued by Milton at the beginning of
Part III. Altmann’s chapter provides methods for fully
addressing questions of adaptation by measuring nutrition and fitness. The contribution by Koenig and Borries
evaluates some firmly held notions concerning the influence of the resource base on social characteristics such as
agonism and dominance hierarchies. Counterintuitively,
limited agonism among Hanuman langurs was associated
with a greater skew in physical condition, suggesting that
overt agonism may not be the best indicator of feeding
competition, feeding success, or fitness. Janson and Vogel
explore the role of hunger in shaping aggression among
capuchin monkeys. This is an interesting approach, and
they make a compelling argument that an index that
takes time of feeding and the quantity of ingested food
into account is adequate for assessing hunger. They subsequently found increased agonism among hungrier monkeys. While urinalysis and other techniques will refine
this approach, it is an interesting attempt at relating this
aspect of dietary physiology to behavior in wild primates.
The contribution by Marlowe reveals many of the unique
qualities of human foraging strategies. Central-place provisioning, as opposed to a more mobile sleeping-site form
of provisioning, is argued to be the more adaptive method
given the unique attributes of human socioecology. The
role of fallback foods, defined as annually available but
seasonally exploited resources, is a recurrent topic
addressed both directly and indirectly throughout the volume. In Part II, the role of fallback resources in shaping
group dynamics is a major theme of contributions by Marshall and Leighton and by Wich et al. All the contributions
in Part II successfully provide avenues for further inquiry
into primate dietary strategies and evolution.
The greatest contribution of Milton’s outline of Part III,
‘‘Analyzing Nutritional Ecology,’’ is historical. It provides
an interesting overview of the development of not only primate nutritional ecology but also primatology writ large.
This section provides helpful methodological insights as
well as primary data concerning the influence of dietary
nutrition on primate biology. The Ortmann et al. chapter
helpfully identifies nutrients of interest and outlines
methods for preservation and storage of food samples.
Their discussion of the analysis of plant and animal DNA
in feces is particularly interesting. The contribution by
Mayes also provides interesting and fairly straight-forward methods for assessing dietary composition and nutritive value, with a focus on long-chain fatty acids in the
wax of plants. A method for analyzing the wax of invertebrate cuticles is also offered as a way to deal with the diets
of relatively omnivorous primates, as are additional techniques for assessing gut-passage rates. Conklin-Brittain
et al. present a laboratory method for assessing energy
intake based upon crude protein, lipids, neutral detergent
fraction, and total nonstructural carbohydrates. Annual
energy intake in orangutans was found to vary more than
that for chimpanzees. The list of plant foods at the end of
this chapter is useful for any comparative primate ecolo-
gist. Danish et al. analyze redtail monkey and red colobus
diets. They found that the polygastric red colobus tolerates
more sugar than predicted and that this sugar intake may
be counterbalanced by high levels of dietary nitrogen
extracted from leaves. This paper challenges some of our
assumptions concerning primate diets and dietary strategies. The final chapter by Dominy et al. addresses the
cues used by primates to assess food quality. Texture,
color, and sugar content are used in this multivariate
approach. They found that different modalities appear to
be used for different fruits.
Feeding Ecology in Apes and Other Primates is a timely
addition to the literature on primate ecology and evolution. Although edited volumes are usually best consumed
piecemeal, a coherent cover-to-cover reading is possible
due to its organization. This volume can be used by graduate students in search of a methodological or theoretical
Lucas Powell and Della Collins Cook. Gainesville:
University Press of Florida. 2005. 528 pp. ISBN
0-813-02794-2. $85.00 (cloth).
This book is a timely publication as syphilis rates
worldwide are on the rise and scholarly interest concerning the origins and evolution of the disease is at an all
time high. Powell and Cook’s edited volume brings together the current information concerning North American archaeological evidence for treponemal disease based
on a symposium presented at the 67th Annual Meeting of
the American Association of Physical Anthropologists held
in Utah in 1998. The authors’ intention is to determine
which of the treponemal diseases can be unequivocally
identified in Native American skeletal remains from the
past. The authors who have contributed to this volume are
charged with a number of tasks, but of specific interest is
verifying, through the identification of congenital evidence, whether the venereal form is present in pre-Columbian North American populations.
Refreshingly unique to this edited volume is the relatively standardized presentation of material for each contributed chapter. This adds consistency and clarity to the
overall goals and discussion of the book, and Powell and
Cook should be commended for their approach; I hope that
more edited volumes stemming from conference symposia
will follow their lead. Of the 21 chapters, 16 systematically
provide information for different geographical regions of
North America, although a few areas appear to lack some
coverage, particularly within Canada. As a result, readers
who are interested in a particular area can focus on certain chapters while others with a more comprehensive
viewpoint are directed to the book’s culmination in Chapter 20. Here, Powell and Cook have done a tremendous job
in compiling the book’s skeletal evidence of treponemal
disease, which is laid out in a chart with a temporal and
regional perspective. Interestingly, although prevalence
rates have appeared to increase over time, with the first
North American cases being identified from 6000 to 1000
foothold. It can also be used as a reference for the established researcher, and taken piecemeal Feeding Ecology in
Apes and Other Primates provides a multitude of case
studies that instructors can use to augment textbooks for
lower-level courses in primatology and more advanced
courses in primate ecology.
Department of Anatomy,
Kansas City University of
Medicine and Biosciences
Kansas City, Missouri
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20680
Published online 26 July 2007 in Wiley InterScience
BC, little geographical patterning is indicated by the evidence presented.
Another important bonus this book possesses is the
background chapter on ‘‘Treponematosis.’’ Powell and
Cook have amassed an impressive literature base, both
historic and current, that would benefit both beginning
and seasoned scholars. I think all university libraries
should possess this book based purely upon this chapter
alone, but more specifically because of the comprehensive
discussion that follows. Professors of paleopathology
should definitely expose their students to this book, as
it provides a thorough database on treponemal disease as
well as a justified critique on past diagnoses and assessments.
The title is an interesting choice by Powell and Cook. It
concerns the theory that Columbus and his crew were
involved in the trans-Atlantic transmission of venereal
syphilis from the New to the Old World, but for me it
relates more to the authors’ conclusions. It is a mystery
to me why their main deductions support a nonvenereal
form in North America when Chapters 4 and 12 diagnose
dental lesions and Chapter 6 provides skeletal lesions indicative of congenital transmission of venereal syphilis.
Although these identifications are considered ‘‘tentative’’
by Powell and Cook (p 467), they appear to be given little
credence. It is understandable why the osseous lesions
may be discounted but not the dental alterations, as these
are considered by most specialists in the field, including
Powell and Cook (p 30), to be clear indications of the presence of venereal syphilis transmission from mother to
child. Instead the editors suggest that these particular
cases may have occurred when immunologically sensitive
women of childbearing age were exposed after capture by
groups in which the disease was endemic. This is an
interesting theory, but I think others may be afforded
based upon the evidence collected by the contributors.
Due to the provisional acceptance of a congenital form by
Powell and Cook, one is led to believe that the editors
may not be comfortable with their contributors’ diagnoses. If this is the case, then second opinions should have
been sought, particularly from dental experts in the field.
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
This volume is a great addition to the ongoing discussion of venereal syphilis; the New World focus complements and improves upon a previous edited volume on
Old World evidence, The Origin of Syphilis in Europe:
Before or After 1493? (Dutour et al., editors (1994)). I only
hope that more edited volumes of a similarly high scholarly caliber are in the works for other continents so that
a truly global perspective can be achieved.
by Erella Hovers and Steven L. Kuhn. New York:
Springer. 2006. 332 pp. ISBN 0-387-24658-4. $84.78
Transitions Before the Transition stems from symposia given at the meetings of the Society for American
Archaeology held in Denver in 2002. The volume, with a
foreword by Peter Mellars, presents 17 papers by specialists in Middle Paleolithic (MP) archaeology, all of whom
confront key questions regarding the nature of MP transitions in Europe, Africa, and the Levant. The absence of
the Asian evidence is attributed to a difference in
research goals in that region. In the introductory chapter,
the editors concisely situate the topic within past and current research questions and justify their inclusion of specific topics. They emphasize the differences in time trends
in various parts of the Old World, and they acknowledge
the problems with the behavioral significance of the
Mousterian and with such terms as behavioral modernity.
Overall, a sense of diversity in technological adaptations
and subsistence strategies is projected.
In Chapter 2, Kleindienst points out problems with the
use of specific nomenclatures such as Middle Palaeolithic
and Acheulean. Evidence from the Dakhlh and Kharga
Oasis depressions in Egypt is used to justify assemblage
classification and the detection of transitional phases.
Ultimately, she encourages a careful consideration of associated diagnostic and descriptive features before readily
classifying cultural stratigraphic units. Clark and RielSalvatore’s chapter on systematics in Paleolithic archaeology also addresses assemblage composition and how it can
influence interpretations of behavioral patterns. The primary comparison is between the Africanist approach and
the European perspective, and the authors underscore the
evidence from Gesher Benot Ya’aqov in Israel and Bose in
southern China, emphasizing techno-typological convergence across large geographic areas. Chapter 4 by Monnier lays out a methodological approach to test the very
concept of standardization and its factors. She uses empirical data from four rock shelters in France and employs attribute analyses of size and shape, retouch type, location
of retouch, and symmetry to recognize visible standardization across the Middle to Upper Paleolithic transition in
that region. She demonstrates that, except for the singleside scraper, there is hardly any increase in tool-type
standardization at this time, possibly suggesting the lack
of required mental templates for lithic production prior to
the Upper Paleolithic. The next chapter, by Delagnes and
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
Department of Anthropology
McMaster University
Hamilton, ON, Canada
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20681
Published online 13 July 2007 in Wiley InterScience
Meignen, also addresses diversity in lithic assemblage
compositions from France. They utilize four different lithic
debitage systems and compare their respective geographic
and chronological distributions, which point to morphological diversity as a broad chronological trend. They conclude that the most prominent chronological pattern is
visible during Oxygen Isotope Stage 3 and possibly in late
Stage 4 and is directly linked to changing ecological and
climatic processes.
Like several preceding authors, Kuhn (Chapter 6)
addresses and discusses the very concept of the Mousterian, specifically its stasis. Using evidence from the Latium
area and Riparo Mochi, average length–width ratios of
blanks, dorsal scar patterns, and the frequency of blades
are discussed. Using Sewall Wright’s concept of fitness
landscapes, Kuhn demonstrates that technological change
can vary at both interregional and intersite levels. Marks
and Chabai’s Chapter 7 presents two lithic cultural facies
in the Crimea. The factors for differences in lithic morphology, site distribution, and artifact composition
between the two types of assemblages are explained. Crimean Mousterian sites were found to be a part of a larger
system, whereas the Crimean Micoquian appeared to be
more spatially restricted.
Chapters 8 and 12 focus on the subsistence behavior of
Middle Paleolithic hominins in Europe and the eastern
Mediterranean, respectively. In Chapter 8, Gaudzinski
utilizes data from several monospecific faunal assemblages from Taubuch and Salzgitter Lebenstedt and highlights key interpretative limitations. Stiner’s Chapter 12,
however, addresses the entire Mediterranean region
where three distinct changes in faunal exploitation are
visible over the last 500 kyr. Here, she notes three features
of hominin subsistence behavior: ungulate predation,
small mammal preference, and increased efficiency in carcass processing.
Offering another large-scale perspective, Meignen and
coauthors (Chapter 9) write about the MP settlement patterns in the Levant using archaeological and faunal data
sets, specifically from Hayonim, Kebara, and Amud. Seasonality and diverse anthropological attributes are integrated to formulate a working hypothesis: that settlement-pattern variation within the Levantine MP is
related to diverse factors and not simply the result of a
cognitive shift within local or incoming populations. The
next chapter, by Shea, also addresses the entire Levantine
region but from a typological perspective. He uses chronology, laminar indices, point frequency, and symbolic behavior to argue that the similarity of Neanderthal and modern human toolkits in the region is a result of ecofunctional convergence rather than technocultural interaction
and evolutionary continuity. Chapters 10 (Speth) and 15
(Wadley) include discussions on the spatial aspects of MP
sites. Through multivariate analyses, Speth notes similarities between Neanderthals and modern humans in the
use of space. The most significant finding is that both
groups manipulated hearths, middens, and associated
contents in a similar fashion, i.e., with systematic internal
structure. Wadley (Chapter 15), on the other hand,
addresses the use of space at Rose Cottage Cave in South
Africa through comparative analyses of several layers and
associated behavioral signatures such as hearths and
lithic densities. The author surmises that the Late Stone
Age people utilized the same spatial configurations of the
previous occupants.
Brooks and coauthors (Chapter 13) cover the relevance
of projectile technology in the African Middle Stone Age
(MSA) and what it signifies for modern human emergence.
They argue that the dimensional variance reflects a rather
complex technological repertoire rather than a specific
and simple function such as spear-throwing. Besides museum collections, their three main data sets come from
=Gi and Aduma in Africa and Tabun in the Levant, where
a reduction in point size and weight are noted. In Chapter
14, McBrearty and Tryon use a Kapthurin Formation case
study to interpret the transition from the Acheulean to
the MSA. They point out that traits leading to the evolution of modern humans such as different flake production
methods, the Levallois technique, and the appearance of
blades, grindstones, and pigment predate 285 kya there.
In Chapter 16, Hovers and Belfer–Cohen talk about the
irregularity of the MP behavioral record and partly attribute it to demographic processes. Finally Bar–Yosef, in the
last chapter, revises some of the issues raised by other con-
tributors and goes one step further by highlighting current trends in the archaeology of the MP (e.g., terminological problems, territoriality) as well as future targets (e.g.,
recovering early Aurignacian hominin fossils). Most
importantly, he reiterates the relevance of the chaı̂nes
opératoires approach in lithic analyses.
The editors have maintained a high standard for the
volume by including top contributors in the discipline who
provide readers with meaningful conclusions and innovative methodological frameworks for the Middle to Upper
Paleolithic transition. Again, the only lack was geographic
coverage (Asia), and many of the included papers offered
strong comparative data and perspectives on specific sites
within a single region or different types of sites across
space more than time. Not only is this book a practical reference for advanced students, but it will provide interpretative and theoretical guidance to experienced scientists.
The significance of pursuing further research on Paleolithic transitions is evident from the professional response
to a symposium at the 2006 International Union for
Prehistoric and Protohistoric Sciences conference in Portugal and the consequential approval of the commission,
Transitions in the Paleolithic, to directly address the
multidisciplinary questions such as those raised in this
The Stone Age Institute
Gosport, Indiana
DOI 10.1002/ajpa.20682
Published online 31 July 2007 in Wiley InterScience
American Journal of Physical Anthropology—DOI 10.1002/ajpa
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