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.


13.7: Cosmos And Culture
12:20 am
Thu August 6, 2015

Are Whales And Dolphins Cultural Beings?

Two sperm whales, members of a social unit named "The Group of Seven," begin a dive together in the deep waters close to Dominica, West Indies.
Courtesy of Luke Rendell/Whitehead Lab Dominica Sperm Whale Project

Originally published on Thu August 6, 2015 6:36 pm

The idea that our oceans teem with cultural animals — and have for millions of years — is the central conclusion of a new book by two whale scientists. And it's a convincing one.

Whales and dolphins, as they forage for food and interact with each other in their social units, may learn specific ways of doing things from their mothers or their pod mates.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:30 am
Sat August 1, 2015

Being A Woman: Who Gets To Decide?

Indian athlete Dutee Chand has been fighting the ban for "hyperandrogenism," or the presence of high levels of testosterone in the body, that has made her ineligible to compete as a sprinter.
Rafiq Maqbool AP

Originally published on Sat August 1, 2015 10:40 am

This week, Switzerland's Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Indian sprinter Dutee Chand may race as a woman in international competition.

This decision is significant because, just last year, Chand was denied by track and field's governing body (the International Association of Athletics Federations or IAAF) the right to compete against women because her natural levels of testosterone were considered too high for a female athlete.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:42 am
Thu July 30, 2015

Raising Voices For Cecil The Lion

Originally published on Tue August 11, 2015 5:01 pm

Cecil the lion's slaughter at the hands of trophy hunters in Zimbabwe has lit up the Internet and social media with protest and outrage in recent days.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:54 am
Thu July 23, 2015

Putting Spiders On Treadmills In Virtual-Reality Worlds


Originally published on Thu July 23, 2015 2:50 pm

The methodology described in a recent study, a peer-reviewed paper on animal behavior — in which biologists Tina Peckmezian and Phillip W. Taylor of Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, worked with 56 female jumping spiders — is fascinating.

Here's what the biologists did:

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:24 am
Thu July 16, 2015

Powered By Plants On The Ultramarathon Trail

Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek.
Ted S. Warren AP

Originally published on Thu July 16, 2015 2:46 pm

The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, crossing 14 states for a total of 2,189 miles. This past Sunday, ultramarathon runner Scott Jurek completed a thru-hike of the AT in record-breaking time: 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
10:18 am
Thu July 9, 2015

'Skyfaring': The Poetry And Science Of Air Travel

Storms over the Bay of Bengal.
Courtesy of Mark Vanhoenacker

In an episode of the Netflix program Sense8, the character Capheus suddenly finds himself an aircraft passenger alongside Riley, another "sensate" to whom he is mysteriously connected emotionally. Flying from London to Reykjavik, Riley is bored, her eyes dulled even as spectacular white clouds drift past her window. Capheus, who lives in Nairobi and has never before traveled by air, is thunderstruck by Riley's refusal to grasp how lucky she is to be dwelling in these skies.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
1:40 pm
Thu July 2, 2015

Great White Sharks And The Thrill Of Unseen Nature

Marc Henauer iStockimages

Originally published on Thu July 2, 2015 3:45 pm

Last Thursday, boat captain Giancarlo Thomae — flying in a helicopter over the Aptos, Calif., coastline — spotted and photographed what he called a "once in a lifetime event." There were 15 great white sharks swimming within a quarter-mile radius of the grounded SS Palo Alto ("the cement ship") just offshore.

"In my 20-plus years at sea, I have never seen anything like this," Thomae noted to media.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:03 am
Thu June 25, 2015

In 'Soul Of An Octopus,' An Invertebrate Steals Our Hearts

Dieter Hawlan iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu June 25, 2015 3:17 am

Once a month, The New York Times Book Review includes animals as a category in its best-selling books list. This past Sunday, an invertebrate cracked the top group.

Coming in 10th — after books about birds, dogs, wolves, sheep and elephants — was Sy Montgomery's The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration in the Wonder of Consciousness.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:14 am
Fri June 19, 2015

Justice Scalia And The Age Of Humanity

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia speaking in Atlanta.
Dave Tulis AP

Earlier this month, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia delivered a commencement address to the graduating class of the Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Md.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:15 am
Thu June 11, 2015

For Adults, Coloring Invites Creativity And Brings Comfort


Originally published on Thu June 11, 2015 3:01 pm

In 1982, anthropologist Adrienne Zihlman, now professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, published The Human Evolution Coloring Book.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:53 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Declaring The Discovery Of A New Species Can Get Tricky

The jaw fragment and teeth of Australopithecus deyiremeda, found in the Afar region of Ethiopia.
Yohannnes Haile-Selassie AP

May was an exciting month for new discoveries that add to our knowledge of human evolution during the period around 3 million years ago. This is before the origin of the genus Homo, 2.8 million years ago, and during the time when Australopithecus afarensis (the famous "Lucy") lived in East Africa.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
3:24 pm
Thu May 28, 2015

Viewing Octopus Choreography In Captivity

Mattia D'Antonio iStockphoto

Originally published on Thu May 28, 2015 5:18 pm

The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, crafted in 2012 by a group of international scientists, states that octopuses — the only invertebrate animals mentioned — are conscious animals capable of intentional behavior.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:15 am
Thu May 21, 2015

Is The War On Fat Harming Our Children?


Originally published on Fri May 22, 2015 1:22 am

America's ongoing war on fat, which aims to save this country — and especially its young people — from a costly and damaging epidemic of obesity, turns out to be dangerous all on its own: It exacts a severe psychological and physical toll on the very individuals it purports to help, according to an upcoming book.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
7:55 am
Thu May 14, 2015

The Role Of Science In A Push For Animal Liberation

An orca swims with its baby at the Marineland animal exhibition park in Antibes, France, in 2013.
Lionel Cironneau AP

Originally published on Thu May 14, 2015 1:58 pm

Last Friday in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer asked which contemporary practices will be deemed "abominable" in the future, in the way that we today think of human enslavement.

He then offered his own opinion:

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
8:32 am
Thu May 7, 2015

France's 'New' Prehistoric Cave Art: The Real Thing?

Drawings of animal figures in the life-size replica of Chauvet Cave in southern France.
Claude Paris AP

Originally published on Thu May 7, 2015 12:02 pm

Starting around 35,000 years ago, our ancestors painted — with accurate lines and glorious colors — images of lions, bison, mammoth, rhinoceroses, horses and even an owl on the walls of what is now called Chauvet Cave in south-central France.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:25 am
Thu April 16, 2015

Is It Sexist To Say That Women Are Superior To Men?


Originally published on Fri April 24, 2015 11:50 am

"Women are not equal to men; they are superior in many ways, and in most ways that will count in the future. It is not just a matter of culture or upbringing. It is a matter of chromosomes, genes, hormones, and nerve circuits. It is not mainly because of how experience shapes women, but because of intrinsic differences in the body and the brain."

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
9:09 am
Sun April 12, 2015

Ready To Try Some Free-Range Parenting?


Originally published on Sun April 12, 2015 10:24 am

In a radio interview with WBUR's Tom Ashbrook on March 26 , dinosaur paleontologist Scott Sampson, who's also the author of How to Raise a Wild Child, said that the average child in the U.S. today spends between 4 and 7 minutes outdoors daily — a 90 percent drop from the time spent outside by their parents.

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13.7: Cosmos And Culture
11:34 am
Thu April 2, 2015

Male Dolphins Form Complex Alliances When Aiming To Control Females


Originally published on Thu April 2, 2015 5:12 pm

"Outside of humans, the most complex alliances known are found in a population of bottlenose dolphins, Tursiops cf. aduncus, in Shark Bay, Western Australia."

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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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