Mother Nature

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The social anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy turns the maternal image of the adoring, protective mother on its head. Mothers are not the passive, coy, self-sacrificing creatures we like to think of, she says, but rather calculating, aggressive and ruthless deal-makers.

Take, for example, the mother kangaroo. When pursued by a predator, she lightens her load by tossing her baby out of its pouch. Flo, the famous chimp that Jane Goodall studied, protected her brood by sleeping around. Male chimps, it turns out, protect the femme fatale, not the virtuous ape. When the babies of female monkeys, called langurs, are killed by outside marauding male langurs, the females immediately solicit these killers for sex. Mother birds control brood size by allowing the older, bigger chicks to horde the worms and starve the younger sibs.

Dr. Hrdy reveals the Real Mother Nature.
(Hosted by Christopher Lydon)


Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Professor of U.C. Davis, author of Mother Nature.