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.

In the area of 1 in 2,000 people are born intersex. These individuals may have mixed genitalia, meaning some combination of ovaries and testes. This comes about either because ovarian and testicular tissue grow together in the same organ or because a "male side" and a "female side" develop in the body.

For people in the 43 million U.S. households with domestic cats, there's good news: Your cat doesn't really want to kill you.

In just four weeks, on Dec. 2, I'll teach my last-ever college class.

When I depart my classroom in the College of William and Mary's anthropology department around 3:20 that afternoon, it will surely feel surreal. After 27 years, I'm retiring from teaching to take up full-time science writing.

All life on earth is related. The way children wiggle, breathe, cuddle and grab objects can help them to realize their ancient link with fish, reptiles, mammals and apes.

This is the message of Grandmother Fish, a new book for 3- to 7-year-olds written by Jonathan Tweet and illustrated by Karen Lewis. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign and offered free in PDF form online, the book has won praise as a child's first book of evolution.

In The New York Times last Sunday, University of Toronto political scientist Courtney Jung argued that the "righteous zeal" and "moral fervor" that surrounds urging of new mothers to breast-feed their babies in this country is harmful, especially because the touted benefits of breast-feeding are more modest than we are often led to think.

On Thursday, the Odense Zoo in Denmark is scheduled to dissect a lion for the educational benefit of children on school holidays.

The 9-month-old female lion was considered "surplus." Officials at Odense said they had too many female lions. They also were concerned about inbreeding, according to reports. The lion was offered to other zoos, but when no takers were found she was killed earlier this year and stored in a freezer.

"We are biocultural ex-apes trying to understand ourselves," declares biological anthropologist Jonathan Marks in his new book, Tales of the Ex-Apes:How We Think About Human Evolution.

In the arena of ocean ecology and conservation, Carl Safina is a superstar. Through television documentaries, his writings and the Safina Center, he's been a vital force for years in educating the public about ocean pollution, overfishing and conservation.

In The New York Times travel section Sunday, Stephanie Rosenbloom described a hot day this summer when she sat in the Roman amphitheater in Arles, France.

As she imagined scenes Van Gogh may have observed there during the 19th century, she says, a soft whirring sound broke into her reverie. Rosenbloom writes:

There's a lot of debate about how to define a mass shooting.

According to a recent NPR report, mass killings happen every two weeks in the U.S. — as defined by the FBI.

An 11-question quiz that tests science literacy — some would say very basic science literacy — is on my mind this week.

In U.S. counties with warm winters, temperate summers and beautiful natural resources — like beaches, lakes, hills or mountains — people's rates of affiliation with religious organizations are lower than in other places, according to a new study.

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.

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.

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.

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:

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.

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.

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.

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.