What interested me most about non-human primates is how they have the intellectual ability to socially organize themselves into large groups in order to obtain several group benefits such as increased access to to food and sexual reproduction, cooperative defense of group resources and chasing off predators. They are also intelligent enough to avoid areas where resources have already been depleted by other individuals. Human beings have very similar social tendencies, especially when comparing our mating strategies to that of non-human primates. Human females are choosy when it comes to selecting a male to reproduce with just as female non-human primates are. Human males are interested in reproducing with as many females as they can in order to pass on their genetic material to as many offspring as possible just like male non-human primates.
We can better understand our own biology, behavior and culture by studying non-human primates because of how much in common we have with them biologically, behaviorally and culturally due to the fact that we share a common ancestor with them.
For example, we share many biological and physical commonalities with non-human primates such as having prehensile digits that allow us to grasp onto things, larger more complex brain structures, fully enclosed eye sockets, greater reliance on visual abilities, locomotive abilities and mammary glands to provide offspring with nutrients. These biological and physical commonalities indicate a common evolutionary history for human and non-human primates which can provide informative explanations for why some of these traits still exist in humans.
We also share many behavioral commonalities with non-human primates such as our reliance on learned behavior which requires extra parental care, competing for resources and our reproductive behaviors such as differential reproductive investment where females are choosy when mating and males just want to mate with as many females as possible to pass on their genetics to offspring. The commonalities we share in regards to behavior with non-human primates can aid in our better understanding of why we behave instinctively as we do.
Lastly, we also share many cultural and social commonalities with non-human primates such as socially organizing ourselves into large communities in order to increase access to food, maximize protection from predators and defend resources; competing for access to resources; females learning parenting skills from their mothers; having a smaller number of offspring so parents can give the extra care and effort the offspring need to mature; and having strong long lasting mother-offspring bonds due to offspring reliance on learning learned behaviors. These cultural and social commonalities we share with non-human primates help to explain the evolution of primate social groups as an adaptation for acquiring resources and the bond between parent and offspring.
Our shared ancestry, biological, physical, behavioral and cultural traits that we have with non-human primates provide us with a great amount of information about human evolution. We can learn about how humans have evolved over time in regards to changes in our physical appearance, how we’ve socially organized into groups and why, why we rely on learned behaviors to mature into adult humans, reasons for why we reproduce and select mates.