Last Common Ancestor - Craig Stanford #113

What a treat it was to talk with primatologist and biological anthropologist Craig Stanford. If you’re a regular listener of ReWild Yourself podcast, you probably know how deeply fascinated I am with the great apes. I think they give us a window into understanding ourselves biologically, into understanding our wildness and even help us to glimpse into our origins.

Craig — author of sixteen books and over one hundred scholarly and popular articles — has studied chimpanzees extensively, studying their hunting behavior in Tanzania in collaboration with Dr. Jane Goodall, studying chimps and mountain gorillas in Uganda and more. He takes us on a journey to the meeting place of primatology and anthropology. He breaks down the social behaviors of some of the great apes, focusing on chimps and bonobos, and shares some of his controversial findings on the popularized "peaceful bonobo" research. This interview provides context to many of the themes we discuss on this podcast and was my favorite of the season. If you’re interested in ReWilding, I think you’ll find our conversation fascinating.

Episode Breakdown:

  • Daniel shares on:
    • Vibram FiveFingers
    • Fats, food fads and the ketogenic diet
    • Thoughts on contraception & my personal contraception strategy
    • An interesting interview experience: Christianity and ReWilding
  • Craig’s journey in writing and primatology
  • Our last common ancestor
  • Should we be in the same genus as chimps and bonobos?
  • The great apes as a window into our origins
  • Multiple species of apes vs one Homo sapiens species
  • What is a species?
  • The politics of naming species
  • Differences between chimps and bonobo
  • Omnivorous diets and hunting strategies of apes
  • Frodo’s story
  • Meat as a commodity for manipulation
  • The plight of the modern ape
  • Craig’s prognosis for the future of the human species

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Planet Without Apes
By Craig B. Stanford
Biological Anthropology (3rd Edition)
By Craig Stanford, John S. Allen, Susan C. Antón

Meet Craig

Dr. Craig Stanford is a primatologist and biological anthropologist. He is currently Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology at the University of Southern California, where he also serves as co-Director of the U.S.C. Jane Goodall Research Center. He has carried out field studies of chimpanzee hunting behavior in Tanzania in collaboration with Dr. Jane Goodall, of chimpanzees and mountain gorillas in Uganda, and of langur monkeys in South Asia. 

Stanford has published sixteen books and more than one hundred scholarly and popular articles. His articles about animal behavior and human origins have appeared in Natural History, American Scientist and other popular nature and science magazines. An acclaimed teacher who has won every major teaching award at the University of Southern California, Stanford lectures around the United States and elsewhere on topics related to his work on human origins and primate behavior.