Blog 4- Primatology

One of the things that I found most interesting about this week’s topic was that we come from so-called fission-fusion societies where females tend to leave their original home when they reach a certain point in development while the men stay. This creates an area with a lot of male primates that are related and it can become very hostile and aggressive as they fight over territory, as stated in the article “What Is War Good for? Ask a Chimpanzee” by Erin Wayman. I think this is intriguing because if we do originate from a group that exercised this practice then many parallels and conclusions can be drawn about the way we live today. For example, while we may not be territorial in the way that, say, a chimpanzee is, there are definitely defensive traits exhibited when an unknown man or woman enters another person’s home or “territory”. Although it was mainly a male –dominated trait in the past, I believe it has now progressed into something women can also exhibit.

Another example of the fission-fusion societies can be seen with chimpanzees and war patterns. As it points out in the article, there have been documented cases of wars between chimpanzees which, when paired with our extensive war history, may suggest that fighting and killing is engrained into our (human primate’s) DNA. However, the article then goes on to say that, as exemplified by spider monkeys, it is in most cases a matter of circumstance; that war is simply inevitable in some cases, and not necessarily something that we want or physiologically need to do. This can be tied back into the societal pattern because, as stated in the article, “These fission-fusion societies create opportunities for violence,… Because communities subdivide during the day, it’s likely that a subgroup from one community will encounter a smaller subgroup (or even a solitary individual) from another community near their border. Given this imbalance of power, the risk of getting injured in an attack is low for members of the larger subgroup…”

An additional commonality I found interesting was the idea of differential reproductive investment. Since in the reproductive process women have to carry the child (or children) for nine months and it is extremely rough on the body for them, they are forced to be “choosy” about who they mate with. Men, on the other hand, could apparently potentially impregnate all of the women in North America with one ejaculation (a concept I find baffling). Due to the fact that this takes little effort in comparison, they are evolutionarily “predicted to inseminate as many females as possible” as stated in the lecture. I find it interesting in comparison with our current society’s view on male promiscuity versus female promiscuity. In males it is almost celebrated while females are berated for it. Could this be, in part, due to the fact that humans are evolutionarily programmed this way?

These are just a couple of examples I found interesting out of the countless ways in which our evolution can be correlated to that of non-human primates. Nearly all of the information I learned this week about our relationship with them has been new to me so I think it is fascinating just how much can be explained about our history using theirs.


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