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Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  858 Ratings  ·  124 Reviews
Over the past 150 years scientists have discovered evidence that at least twenty-seven species of humans evolved on planet Earth. These weren't simply variations on apes, but upright-walking humans who lived side by side, competing, cooperating, sometimes even mating with our direct ancestors. Why did the line of ancient humans who eventually evolved into us survive when t ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published January 29th 2013 by Walker Books (first published January 22nd 2013)
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Aug 15, 2013 David rated it really liked it
There is evidence that over twenty different human or near-human species have lived in the past seven million years. They did not all live sequentially; many lived at the same time, and probably interacted from time to time. Some species may have killed off others, while perhaps they inter-bred on occasion. (How do two different species interbreed? That is not clear to me.) In the end, only homo sapiens survived. This is the story of how and why our species survived. It wasn't a fore-ordained re ...more
Nov 02, 2016 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Yes, it has more flaws than some would say a 4 star non-fiction science field read would warrant. Although as I read I did waver. And at one point was considering a 2 because of some aspects in the writing style. But in the end, I decided that it is well worth the read and informative to a 4 star level. And especially for those with no real compass to the direction these inquiries have so far accomplished. Yes, he does make rather "out of place" simile and analogy wording that attempts to be fun ...more
Dec 01, 2012 Eric rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the best that I have read that has focused solely on human evolution. This author takes a specific focus on why we have survived while other humans have not and does not wander into arguments for evolution or much description about how it takes place. As a result, I would not recommend this book for someone who is unfamiliar with evolution, but, rather for the reader that has some familiarity with the process. For instance, this would make an excellent introductory volume in ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
Nov 05, 2012 Elizabeth Theiss rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
Why did home sapiens survive and other closely related species such as Neanderthals and Denisovans become extinct? Chip Walters takes up the question and provides alternative theories of what could have happened based on contemporary archeological evidence. The writing style is lively and non-scholarly in a good way, at times bordering on the irreverent.

Walters' descriptions of Neanderthals and how they lived are fascinating. It appears that Homo sapiens not only lived in the same vicinity at t
Maron Anrow
I have mixed feelings about this book.

I teach Evolutionary Psychology, so when I read popular books on evolution, I'm either looking (1) to learn new stuff about my favorite topic, or (2) for something accessible and easy for my students to read. I picked up this book for the first reason. The implications of Homo sapiens' coexistence with other hominins (e.g., Neanderthals, Denisovans) has grabbed hold of me recently, and this book appeared to be entirely about that topic. While it does address
Mar 15, 2013 Maitrey rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Last Ape Standing (LAS) was a bit of a letdown for me. I was expecting it to fill gaps in what I knew of the human evolutionary tree, but it turned out to be pop-sci and it's subtitle was very misleading. I think I should've read up more on Chip Walter before picking this book up.

LAS moves very quickly from our last common ancestor with the chimps to very recent hominins like Homo rudolfensis and Homo ergaster. Therefore the seven million year journey is almost halfway done in the first few page
Dec 01, 2012 Wendy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: curious hominids
Recommended to Wendy by: goodreads
*Note* I received an advanced readers' copy of this book as part of the Goodreads First Reads program.

I first encountered Paleolithic humans and Neanderthals in 7th grade, in the pages of Jean Auel's 1980 novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, a sexy (and often not so sexy) portrayal of a time period in which fiction, as far as we knew then, was about as accurate a depiction as the scant archaeological tracings we'd unearthed. (I'll have to go back and read it again to see how her view of cave-people
The bulk of this book was a solid 5 stars, but there were several sections that were so complex and almost textbook-y that by the end I was just toughing it out. This isn't a particularly long book, but it is incredibly dense, and so despite Walker's friendly, "science-light" writing style it just took me forever to get through - although that's probably more a reflection on myself and my own mental limitations than a criticism of Walker.

When he was discussing the development, expansion, interac
Mar 05, 2013 Sarah rated it liked it
First off I should say that I found this book quite interesting. Even though I was somewhat less interested in the evolution considerations and much more interested in the paleoanthropology, still, it was a pretty fascinating read and definitely gave me a slightly different lens through which to peer at my modern existance.

I did, however, have a bit of a hard time following the "family tree" and how each human species connected to others and whether their territory overlapped, how they migrated
Jan 11, 2013 Maxine rated it it was amazing
Last Ape Standing is the story of us, homo sapiens, and how we survived against all odds, why we, of all the hominoids who stood up on their own two feet and walked out of the trees and onto the African savannah, became the last ape standing.

According to author Chip Walter, this outcome was never assured. In fact, many of the things that came together to make us, well, us could also have led us to the same end as all of the other hominoids who walked this planet - 27 at last count, four of whic
Nicholas Spies
Feb 10, 2013 Nicholas Spies rated it it was amazing

I just finished reading Last Ape Standing by William "Chip" Walter and found it to be a fascinating, if tentative, story of the rise of Homo Sapiens to the top a field of some twenty-seven contenders for the crown of "most intelligent species on Earth". As the author freely admits, the number twenty-seven was more or less picked at random, as there is no telling what new fossil evidence will emerge in the near to distant future. Nevertheless, as the author points out, this has been a fascinating

When I went to college many years ago I minored in anthropology so we got a lot of information on ancient humans. This book shows how much the body of knowledge has changed, while revealing how often scientists claim something is true while they're actually just making it up as they go along. It also shows off many other things I really find distasteful about science and our modern culture now.

The tone of the book is naturally overtly humanist, with us being the top of evolution and the best th
Tanja Berg
Jun 03, 2013 Tanja Berg rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, evolution
Rating 4* out of 5. This despite the fact that I was chocked to find a typo in the "author's note" right at the beginning of book. It didn't exactly promise great things to come. I was mistaken. The rest of the book was lucid and readable. I didn't find any more typos. I learned a few things that I've missed before.

I wasn't aware that we shared the world with several other species of human in the early days. Nor that there were many parallel species of two-legged creatures on the prehistoric sa
Aug 17, 2016 Angie rated it liked it
3-. I had started this once a year or two ago and aborted after just a few chapters because the first part of the book was dull and repetitious. Read again for the book group.
There are some interesting ideas in the book that might lead to good discussion in our group, but there are enough flaws that I might have thrown in the towel again if I were on my own.
Some of the writing style is quite enjoyable and expresses his thoughts beautifully, but this is balanced by too many mechanical errors, eve
Jul 05, 2014 Frrobins rated it liked it
This was an interesting overview of what might have made Homo Sapiens different from the Neanderthals an Denovisians and other branches that did not survive. I enjoyed reading about some of the more recent findings on Neanderthals. I will caution, this book is not for someone unfamiliar with the subject.

I enjoyed reading about the concept of neoteny, something I've not heard of before. Overall it stayed away from a lot of the sexist assumptions of evolutionary psychology. Granted, when discussin
Steve Van Slyke
Jun 27, 2013 Steve Van Slyke rated it liked it
Recommended to Steve by: Amazon
Shelves: science, kindle, evolution
This was a tough one to rate. I would have liked to have given it another star but I didn't because sometimes he goes off on tangents that I felt were either not germane or were "unscientific" and by that I mean he quotes paleoantropology hypotheses for which there is no way to test. So for me they were just conjecture.

On the other hand there were some great parts of the book, such as summarizing the latest findings on the various branches of the human family tree, and his projections about how
Nov 27, 2012 Reiden rated it it was amazing
Anything written about the pre-history of our species has the potential to be dry, but not so in this case. Last Ape Standing is well written and includes enough new information to keep things interesting. There was also a real effort to connect major events of our ancient ancestors with modern times.

Much of the book explores the factors involved in the evolution of larger brains found in Homo sapiens. One of our greatest advantages (and weaknesses) was the extended timeframe for child developme
Greta Fisher
Jun 20, 2013 Greta Fisher rated it it was amazing
Prior to reading this very up to date book about human evolution, I had heard about The Max Planck Institute's completion of the Neanderthal genome and further research that indicated that most of modern humans share from 1 to 4 percent of Neaderthal DNA. That group of ancient humans are now extinct, but part of their DNA live on i modern Homo Sapiens. What a mind boggling and wonderful idea that is! I had heard about very recent discovery of the Denisovan people' but had never heard of the Red ...more
Jun 28, 2013 Betsy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Betsy by: GR Science & Inquiry Group
Very enjoyable description of the various -- currently 27 -- different "human" species discovered so far. How they are similar, how they differ, how they are reflected in modern humans. I did notice occasionally a lack of supporting evidence for his descriptions of various traits in other species, but I'm not sure I would have noticed if it hadn't been previously mentioned by others. But it didn't bother me. I think a work like this must be speculative to a certain extent, because there is so li ...more
Morgan Blackledge
Jan 23, 2015 Morgan Blackledge rated it really liked it
This is the story of human evolution from bipedal walking to bicameral consciousness. Chip Walter is a fantastically creative writer and thinker who really knows how to bring this subject to life. The book is wonderfully tangential and ambitious and ends with no less than a treatise on meta-consciousness and self as symbolic construct.

What begins as a cool little story of human origins, ends as an introduction to evolutionary psychology. It's not what I expected, but it makes sense in retrospect
Dec 30, 2012 Josie rated it really liked it
Last Ape Standing is a delightful, fascinating read – it’s written for those of us who love science but are not scientists. It’s the story of what is known about how Homo Sapiens came to be the last surviving standing ape (human) species. He looks at the fossil history, environmental conditions on earth, and some of the things that make us different from the other species that did not make it. He includes thinking by leading paleoanthropologists, philosophers, and others who tell us about the hu ...more
Grace Di Cecco
Nov 11, 2014 Grace Di Cecco rated it it was ok
Shelves: fall-2014
The content matter was interesting but the writing style is painful
May 19, 2013 Book rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution
Last Ape Standing by Chip Walter

“Last Ape Standing" is a journey into human evolution. Science writer, producer of award-winning science documentaries and professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science and Entertainment Technology Center, Chip Walter provides readers an interesting story of how we came to be. The book focuses on paleoanthropology and an engaging narrative that speculates to the best of our current knowledge how out of the twenty-seven human species, Homo sa
Richard Duncan
Jan 27, 2015 Richard Duncan rated it it was ok
Shelves: in-the-nook
The subject is fascinating, the research impressive, but the author's approach made it, for me, almost unreadable.

The book had a loose, sloppy feel. It was filled with unnecessary and frequently silly metaphors and similes. ("Like an Olympian god, the continent's changing climate was forcing the emergence of multiple kinds of humans." "If you compare us with other animals, our ability to create symbols turns out to be a kind of superpower, like being able to fly or peer through rock with X-ray
Dec 10, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
I love ape stories and this one was, for the most part, particularly gripping - hints at the origins of our morality, our love of music, perhaps even our belief in free-will. A deeper understanding of the human condition, one might never look at a human in the same way again.
Mar 21, 2013 Donna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, read-in-2013
This is an excellent book that brings together the current information on how Homo sapiens became the only surviving member of our bushy family tree. It covers areas such as the development of bipedalism, extended childhood, and cooperative behavior, as well as language and consciousness. I keep up to date on the latest headlines regarding human evolution but I appreciated this book for giving a more in-depth and cohesive look at this ever-changing field.

Having a background in the science, I had
H Wesselius
Apr 27, 2013 H Wesselius rated it really liked it
The rise of humans is fascinating ... how one species came to populate the planet in such a domineering way. Walter chronicles this an quick and easy to read manner. Starting with numerous human type species by the time homo sapiens arrived on the scene there were very few left and 20,000 years ago with the end of the Neanderthal, we are the only ones left. The question Walter seeks to answer is Why?

He looks at numerous means of survival and points out how they contribute to our success. Increas
Sep 16, 2013 Alina rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
I love paleoanthropology, and new discoveries are always being made, so I was eager to read this 2013 book on the subject. I was disappointed, however. It contains little I didn't already know from documentaries I'd seen on cable, and the gushing, breathless tone of the writing got old pretty fast. I found myself skimming over passages of puffed up prose that contained little substance, either in terms of facts or ideas. There were also a couple of spots that struck me as not quite accurate. For ...more
May 30, 2013 Tom rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Last Ape Standing took an incredibly fascinating (but rather confusing) topic - human evolution - and made it quite approachable to the armchair anthropologist. It went into a good amount of detail and did a great job of making sure that the reader could follow along on what is our very real history.

The only sad thing is how much is shrouded in mystery, and how much out there we'll never know. But Chip Walter does try to make it clear that we still know a remarkable amount, and how it all fits t
Apr 12, 2013 Lance rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book that deftly integrated the various paleanthropological/fossil record discoveries and genetic research over the last 100 years that have helped to shape the picture of human origins. In particular the discoveries over the last 10 years have truly shaken things up; our journey from Australopithecus to Homo Sapien isn't nearly as "linear" as I remember being taught in my first anthropology course in the early 90s! I love science - what we can learn from genetic analysis o ...more
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Science and Inquiry: August 2013 - Last Ape Standing 23 92 Aug 26, 2013 08:05PM  
  • The Last Human: A Guide to Twenty-Two Species of Extinct Humans
  • Life's Engines: How Microbes made the Earth Habitable
  • Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origins
  • Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes
  • Darwin's Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution
  • Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins
  • Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind
  • Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth
  • Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature
  • The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates
  • Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art, and Imagination Help Us Understand Our Origins
  • The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution
  • The Variety of Life: A Survey and a Celebration of All the Creatures that Have Ever Lived
  • The Epigenetics Revolution
  • The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals
  • A Planet of Viruses
  • Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors
  • Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America
Chip Walter is the author of Last Ape Standing, a former CNN Bureau Chief, documentary filmmaker and screenwriter. His articles have been published in Slate, The Economist, Wall St. Journal, Scientific American and many other publications and his books have been published in six languages. His other books include, Thumbs, Toes and Tears -- And Other Traits That Make Us HUman; I'm Working on That ( ...more
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“Today we are even manipulating the DNA that makes us possible in the first place—a case of evolution evolving new ways to evolve.” 2 likes
“We are the only primates that can tap our foot or move our body in time with a specific rhythm. It’s wired into us, but not into our chimp or gorilla cousins, which tells us that it is a trait that like language, big toes, and toolmaking evolved sometime over the past seven million years.” 1 likes
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