Our Inner Animal

Beasts are more human--and humans more bestial--than we think

Humans! They do like their words. Studies--by scientists who stuck recording devices on them and then counted--suggest that they speak some 16,000 words a day. Vervet monkeys, prairie dogs and European starlings have rudimentary language systems, but for serious verbiage, you have to hand it to Homo sapiens.

Take these two specimens. Hannah Holmes is a tall, blond, personally assertive science journalist. Temple Grandin is an eminent scholar of animal behavior who also happens to be autistic. These humans have written two books that look very different but are, in their warm-blooded, four-chambered hearts, very similar. In The Well-Dressed Ape (Random...