When I was a young child visiting the zoo I always enjoyed seeing the non-human primates that we called gorillas and monkeys. Now knowing more about our diverging paths during evolution I am amazed at the other factors that come into play when comparing our current lives. Back then I only understood that we all could walk on two legs but the other primates never looked comfortable doing so. We did have four extremities, two ears, one nose, a mouth with teeth, and two eyes that looked straight ahead. Now those features seem a little different based on our environments and how we can best use our genetically, determined bodies, but I still always wonder what is going on behind those glassy eyes that gaze back from across the moat or behind the glass as if I am the mammal in captivity.
The information in the videos and links brought to mind the social and cultural aspects of primate life that are most evident when these non-human primates are observed in the wild. I was aware of the family organizations that were described in the lectures and shown in the videos, but I was surprised to learn more about the social interactions and particularly the violent behavior that is seen among individuals in the same family as well as among territorial groups. Unfortunately, I understand the basis of the infanticide seen when a new dominant male takes control of a group. It makes sense that he needs to express his genetic material as quickly as possible within the gene pool since his reign may be short-lived. It seems unnecessary that infanticide should culminate in cannibalism, but the system is apparently accepted within the group. I was unaware that groups of primates went on patrol on a regular basis to monitor the borders of their territory and to seek out strangers to attack or intimidate using strength in numbers. These activities are obviously planned to some extent with intent that may differ from what we believe is happening, but nonetheless, higher reasoning and cooperation is necessary for these activities to take place. I believe we can understand a very primitive basis for violent behavior in our society and among individuals at different social levels. These primates have few, if any, possessions and probably only need to protect their homeland and the food resources nearby. Considering this, they seem to expend significant effort to protect what little they have. It is no surprise to me that humans would place even greater value on our multitude of possessions and believe that guarding them from loss is of similar importance. We have even extended this concern to develop insurance against loss, which the other primates have not learned to do since they cannot replace the value of anything they lose. Finally, I was saddened to see how other primates deal with death. Even though our evolutionary paths have diverged the concept of the permanence of death seems to have had a parallel path. The males who groomed their murdered comrade only to be visited by his brother was uncanny when considering a similar situation that might occur after a human military battle. The sense of family that is evident in these primates is exemplified by the mother who kisses her dying child one last time as it takes its last breath of life.