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Animals do have culture, maintains this delightfully illustrated and provocative book, which cites a number of fascinating instances of animal communication and learning. John Bonner traces the origins of culture back to the early biological evolution of animals and provides examples of five categories of behavior leading to nonhuman culture: physical dexterity, relations with other species, auditory communication within a species, geographic locations, and inventions or innovations. Defining culture as the transmission of information by behavioral rather than genetical means, he demonstrates the continuum between the traits we find in animals and those we often consider uniquely human.
"[Bonner] structures his fascinating book as a survey of culture in the animal kingdom, marching up the venerable chain of being toward bigger brains, increasing behavioral complexity, and freedom from rigid genetic programs."
– Stephen Jay Gould, New York Review of Books
"John Tyler Bonner is a biologist who not only knows a great deal about plants and animals but has thought long and carefully about problems of evolution [...] The pleasure of the book is in the wealth of examples of communication and teaching, many effectively illustrated with drawings or photographs."
– J. Z. Young, London Review of Books
"The great virtue of the book is the re-creation of culture and culture-mimicking behaviors throughout the animal kingdom, an essential step in understanding the probable origins and unique qualities of human sociality. Professor Bonner's style is, as always, witty, and wholly lucid."
– E. O. Wilson, Harvard University