The Red Ape: Orang-Utans and Human Origins

Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Author
Jeffrey H. Schwartz, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $18.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-395-38017-8
Reviewed on: 02/01/1987
Release date: 02/01/1987
For more than a century, it has been generally accepted that chimpanzees and gorillas are the closest living relatives of humankind. A common ancestor""the missing link''has been elusive (``Lucy'' and other fossil hominids have turned out to be dead ends in the evolutionary chain). Schwartz, a physical anthropologist at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, challenges standard thinking with a radical thesis: our nearest evolutionary relative is the orang-utan, native to Borneo and Sumatra. His arguments are based on morphological similarities, sexual physiology and behavior, molecular studies. He has constructed an elegant, though highly technical, detective story that gives the reader a minicourse in comparative anatomy and evolutionary science. Schwartz discusses and criticizes the work of other scientists in the field, leaving us with the impression that paleoanthropology is in the throes of upheavel. Readers who like to pursue questions of our origins, who followed the Lucy fracas, will want to read this. Illustrated. (February 16)
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