Apes in fiction: does the content of novels reflect primatological knowledge?

William C McGrew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Novels about great apes and humans continue to be consistently popular with the reading public, sometimes reaching best-seller status. Media reviews of these books rarely comment on their primatological roots, nor do primatological journals review them. In a non-quantitative, pilot study, I scrutinize six prominent novels, in terms of three questions: How do the novels make use of primatology? What aspects of primatology do they use? How accurate is their use of primatology? Such novels overwhelmingly concentrate on language, with intelligence and sexuality lagging far behind; other topics, such as culture or technology, receive little or no attention. Apes in nature are rarely mentioned. Inaccuracies abound, even at the most basic level of primatological knowledge that easily could be remedied. Both authors and primatologists would benefit from more informative interaction before publication.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-330
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Early online date4 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Hominidae
  • Pan
  • Gorilla
  • Chimpanzee


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