The Ape in the Tree. By Alan Walker and Pat Shipman, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, x + 288 pp., 2005, $26.95 (hardback)
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Alan Walker and his wife Pat Shipman, authors of the excellent Wisdom of the Bones, join forces again in a popular account of the Miocene ape Proconsul. Proconsul spp. lived some 18–20 million years ago and represent a lineage of Hominoidea older than Dryopithecus in Europe or Sivapithecus in Asia. The story, told from Walker’s point of view and deftly rendered by Shipman, an anthropologist and science writer, spans several decades of the last century.
The narrative weaves together 3 themes: the history and context of discoveries; the anatomical remains and an interpretation of the adaptation of Proconsul; and Walker’s personal adventures conducting scientific research: the trials and rewards of field work and collaborations, the drama of personalities and relationships. The result is an informative and engaging account of the period of primate evolution that precedes the better-known fossils such as Australopithecus, Homo erectus, and the Neanderthals.