Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins

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9780674027817: Beautiful Minds: The Parallel Lives of Great Apes and Dolphins

Apes and dolphins: primates and cetaceans. Could any creatures appear to be more different? Yet both are large-brained intelligent mammals with complex communication and social interaction. In the first book to study apes and dolphins side by side, Maddalena Bearzi and Craig B. Stanford, a dolphin biologist and a primatologist who have spent their careers studying these animals in the wild, combine their insights with compelling results. Beautiful Minds explains how and why apes and dolphins are so distantly related yet so cognitively alike and what this teaches us about another large-brained mammal: Homo sapiens.

Noting that apes and dolphins have had no common ancestor in nearly 100 million years, Bearzi and Stanford describe the parallel evolution that gave rise to their intelligence. And they closely observe that intelligence in action, in the territorial grassland and rainforest communities of chimpanzees and other apes, and in groups of dolphins moving freely through open coastal waters. The authors detail their subjects’ ability to develop family bonds, form alliances, and care for their young. They offer an understanding of their culture, politics, social structure, personality, and capacity for emotion. The resulting dual portrait—with striking overlaps in behavior—is key to understanding the nature of “beautiful minds.”

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About the Author:

Maddalena Bearzi is the President and Co-founder of the Ocean Conservation Society and is a visiting scholar in the Departments of Anthropology and Biological Sciences, at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has studied dolphins and whales in California and different parts of the world.

Review:

Endowed through evolution with large brains, the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans) and the cetaceans (dolphins and whales) are second only to humans in intelligence. In this delightful and intriguing book, dolphin specialist Bearzi and primatologist Stanford discuss the similarities between these groups. Both use tools, have sophisticated means of communication and cooperation, solve problems innovatively, transmit cultural traditions to the next generation and are able to imitate others. Like humans, apes and dolphins form complex social networks, and they are capable of deception and manipulation. (Publishers Weekly 2008-01-28)

To see the world from someone else's point of view is hard enough but how much harder when that viewpoint is that of a marine dweller with flippers or an ape whose cognition is based on leaf-centered survival in a rainforest? Hand-signed chimp communications and distinguishing imitation from emulation are two of the topics covered here, the first book to investigate the lives of the dolphins and apes in parallel. It explains why both have big brains and, as far as possible, what it must be like to be them. Fascinating.
--Adrian Barnett (New Scientist 2008-04-26)

Delightful...By the time I reached the final chapter of Beautiful Minds I was so charmed that I felt compelled to read on. Bearzi and Stanford's book has the capacity to delight, entertain, educate, evoke compassion and, I hope, galvanize people into action.
--Debbie Custance (Times Higher Education Supplement 2008-05-22)

Dolphin specialist Bearzi and primatologist Stanford team up in this discussion of the qualities of two species of mammal endowed with remarkably large brains. Among explications of the cultures, politics and emotion of the animals, the authors also make a resounding plea for conserving the ecosystems of these complex creatures.
--Elizabeth Abbott (Globe and Mail 2008-08-30)

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