The next time you are at the zoo or a natural history museum, take a little time out for some social anthropology. Look at the people and which animals they are crowded around. Chances are it won’t be the noble lungfish, despite its 300-million-year evolutionary pedigree; also cold-shouldered will be a range of very interesting antelopes and anything with more than four legs, unless it’s extremely venomous or has appeared in a recent Pixar film. Instead the crowds will almost certainly be gathered around animals that any anatomist will tell you are really quite unspecialised mammals, and any physiologist will tell you are almost dull in comparison to plenty of others: monkeys and apes.
The attraction is, of course, that they are just like us – with a bit more lip and arm, maybe, and with more relaxed attitudes to public defecation and exposure of genitalia. But the mirror is there, and the very fact that it reflects us so nearly is part of