Barbara J. King

Barbara J. King is a contributor to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. She is a Chancellor Professor of Anthropology at the College of William and Mary. With a long-standing research interest in primate behavior and human evolution, King has studied baboon foraging in Kenya and gorilla and bonobo communication at captive facilities in the United States.

Recently, she has taken up writing about animal emotion and cognition more broadly, including in bison, farm animals, elephants and domestic pets, as well as primates.

King's most recent book is How Animals Grieve (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Her article "When Animals Mourn" in the July 2013 Scientific American has been chosen for inclusion in the 2014 anthology The Best American Science and Nature Writing. King reviews non-fiction for the Times Literary Supplement (London) and is at work on a new book about the choices we make in eating other animals. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for her work in 2002.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:22 am
Sun March 29, 2015

This Gibbon Knows Life's A Balancing Act

At the Monkeyland Sanctuary in South Africa, an 8-year-old white-handed gibbon walks the tightrope of a suspension bridge with admirable nerve and skill:

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:50 am
Thu March 26, 2015

What Drove Neanderthals To Extinction? Maybe Us.

Stevica Mrdja iStockphoto

Imagine that in a discussion with friends, the talk turns to invasive species and the cascading changes they cause in the ecosystems they colonize.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
4:48 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

We May Have Snakes To Thank For Our Acute Vision

Next time you run into an African bush viper like this one, be thankful for your forward-facing eyes.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 8:46 am

In a new paper published in the journal Primates, author William C. McGrew, a former professor of evolutionary primatology at the University of Cambridge, reports a high rate of venomous snake encounters by his team of primatologists seeking to observe unhabituated wild chimpanzees in Mount Assirik, Senegal, West Africa.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:47 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Does Being Vegan Really Help Animals?

Mark Hammon iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu March 12, 2015 11:08 am

More people are moving toward a plant-based diet, owing in part to evidence about human health and environmental sustainability, and in part to the emerging scientific consensus on the breadth and depth of animal consciousness and sentience.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
4:40 am
Thu March 5, 2015

Winter Zen: Taking A Cue From Snow Monkeys

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Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 4:33 pm

We are about 15 days away now from the spring equinox — but winter is not yet done with us.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:29 am
Thu February 26, 2015

A Toxic Stew: Risks To Women Of Public Feminism

Nesterov Vasily iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu February 26, 2015 3:18 pm

Writer Michelle Goldberg published an op-ed piece last week in the Washington Post with a headline that conveys, in microcosm, an arresting story: "Feminist writers are so besieged by online abuse that some have begun to retire."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:48 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Can You Hear Nature's Sounds?

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Originally published on Thu February 19, 2015 11:06 am

Last week, South Florida's nature came alive for me as much through sound as through sight: the flapping of wings as a great blue heron soared up over a river; the plashing of water when an alligator slipped off the riverbank to swim away; the huffing of a manatee taking a breath at the water's surface before she slowly sank again to the river bottom to munch grass.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:42 pm
Thu February 12, 2015

A Valentine For People Living With Dementia

Nataliya Arzamasova iStockphoto

This past weekend, when I visited my mother in her assisted living home as I do once or twice a week, I brought along a present. That's not unusual: She and I share a craving for chocolate, and I often bring her new varieties of dark chocolate, her favorite, and other little gifts from my travels.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
4:13 am
Thu February 5, 2015

Fossil Provides Evidence Of Early Human Migration To Europe

Dr. Omry Barzilai of the Israel Antiquities Authority holds an ancient skull found inside a cave near the northern Israeli city of Nahariya.
Dan Balilty AP

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 10:38 am

Some 55,000 years ago, a person — whether female or male, we don't know — lived in Manot Cave in the western Galilee area of what is now Israel. Judging from the partial skull recovered from the cave, and described in Nature last week by Israel Hershkovitz of Tel Aviv University and his co-authors, the person was anatomically modern and closely related to the first modern humans who went on to colonize Europe.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:28 am
Thu January 29, 2015

Plight Of Baby Lab Monkeys Reaches Congress

Actor-activist James Cromwell testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about the use of infant rhesus monkeys at an NIH lab.
Leigh Vogel PETA

Originally published on Thu February 5, 2015 11:42 am

Earlier this week, three scientists, a famous actor-activist and a congresswoman spoke on Capitol Hill about why maternal-deprivation experiments conducted on infant rhesus monkeys at an NIH lab in Maryland do not represent ethical or effective science in the 21st century.

I was one of those scientists.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:16 am
Thu January 22, 2015

Mind Your Moods, Cat Owners

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Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 1:18 pm

Babies "social reference" by checking out their parents' facial expressions and voice tones when they encounter a new or strange object or event in their environment — then base their own reactions on mom's or dad's. They look to their parents as they wonder: Is it OK to stay calm, or is it time to worry?

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
5:58 am
Thu January 15, 2015

What's Right About A 6-Year-Old Who Breast-Feeds

Mothers breast-feed their children of different ages during the Second Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide event near Manila, Philippines, in October 2008.
Pat Roque AP

Originally published on Thu January 15, 2015 9:09 am

When the British newspaper The Mirror reported in late December that a UK mother named Denise Sumpter was still breast-feeding her daughter Belle, who is 6 and a half years old, two experts were invited to weigh in on the practice.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:36 am
Thu January 8, 2015

My 'Word Of 2014': Privilege

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Originally published on Thu January 8, 2015 9:20 am

What was the top word of 2014?

Merriam-Webster Dictionary says it was "culture," based on increased frequency of use. "Of the top 10 words in the running for the honor, culture had a 15% year-over-year increase in look-ups on the dictionary company's website and in its app."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:10 am
Wed December 31, 2014

Reflecting On The Year In Animals

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Originally published on Wed December 31, 2014 2:34 pm

As a writer, my main beat is animals. Yes, I take up all kinds of science-and-society issues rooted in anthropology and psychology, ranging from human evolution to contemporary health, fitness and parenting, to rights for those who express their gender identity or sexual orientation in diverse ways. But animals are at the core of what I care about most intensely — and 2014 has been a fun year for conveying, here at 13.7 and elsewhere, what I have learned.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:24 am
Thu December 18, 2014

Evidence That Chimpanzee Moms Can Be Sneaky, Too

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Because I teach biological anthropology, I'm reading a lot of student work this week that focuses on the African apes, chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas. During this end-of-semester grading marathon, I've got a festive balance going: grade a handful of papers; grab a Christmas cookie; grade a handful more; wrap a present or two.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:04 am
Thu December 11, 2014

In Transgender Teen's Fight, Echoes Of Others

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What happens in a small, semi-rural community in a southern state when an "out" transgender student decides to speak up for his civil rights?

Here in Gloucester County, Virginia, where I live — not far from the Historic Triangle of Yorktown-Williamsburg-Jamestown — the answer is that all hell breaks loose.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:13 am
Thu December 4, 2014

Would You Run 3,080 Miles For Science?

Endurance runner and Purdue University anthropology professor Bryce Carlson is preparing to run 3,080 miles in 140 days.
Courtesy of Bryce Carlson

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 1:37 pm

Scrolling through my Twitter feed this weekend, I saw a tip to follow biological anthropologist Bryce Carlson at Purdue University. I did — and wow! A fascinating new window on the science of extreme human endurance opened up.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:29 am
Thu November 27, 2014

On This Thanksgiving, Celebrating The Wild Turkey

13.7: Cosmos And Culture
6:27 am
Thu November 20, 2014

Can't Sleep? Maybe Thinking About Evolution Will Help

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If you're reading this after a night of inadequate sleep, or disrupted sleep, you have company. The National Sleep Foundation reports that over half the people in their survey experienced at least one symptom of insomnia "at least a few nights per week" over a year's period.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:46 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

Attempting Sex, An Octopus Gets A Surprise

Originally published on Sat November 22, 2014 6:34 pm

Male seeks female — and makes a direct advance towards mating. That's one version of the drive to reproduce in the animal kingdom.

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