There was a lot of surprising information concerning non-human primates in this week’s videos and links. I believe the most intriguing qualities about non-human primates are their minor yet significant differences from humans. It is interesting that most primates have tails, but these tails have evolved into different kinds such as prehensile tails developed by New World Monkeys. It is clear through the fact that all primates possess a grasping ability with their digits that this is a trait that has been successfully passed on through our ancestors. Although humans do not need these hands to live in the trees as our ancestors did, it is important to acknowledge that evolution of this trait into our human hands. Humans’ color vision is another trait that has been passed down due to its extreme usefulness in moderately contrasting surroundings like a jungle. From a sociobiological perspective, primate brains can also supply a very interesting viewpoint as primates such as Hominoid apes have large, complex brains similar to humans. Looking at the behavior connected with these apes supplies a great looking glass into the behavior of our predecessors. Looking at the studies on the Anthropoid subfamily of Cercopithecines also gives great insight into our human ancestry. These primates’ complex social systems and terrestriality supply a clear illustration of hominid evolution. Primates’ social behavior during a threat is interesting. Any threat pushes primates to band together in protection, much like humans. Although most humans nowadays do not have daily fear of running from physical danger, the dilution effect helps us understand why our instinct is to form large groups. Wrangham’s Resource Defense Model also supplies an explanation of the evolution of social behavior in regards to food protection. He explains the value of food and how group size will vary depending on the resources that are available. A topic that I found very fascinating was the topic of dominance hierarchy among males and females. It is said that although both male and female primates have higher birth rates correlated with higher dominance, this distinction is not as dramatic for the females. Essentially, females will be able to mate regardless of their ranking, This type of male dominance leads to intersexual selection behaviors such as infanticide where males strategically kill the youngest infants during a group takeover. Thankfully, this is not a similarity to human primates.
I think studying non-human primates can help us better understand our own behavior, biology, and culture in numerous ways. Besides the many physical qualities that connect human primates to non-human primates, it is also their learning behavior that overlaps with ours. The study of human behavior and culture is often a complicated one. But by looking at the social behavior of non-human primates as they grow up slowly in order to learn behavior, it is clear that we are cut from the same cloth. The studies of primate reproduction show a clear evolution from primate to human within their similarities. Just as with humans, primate infants need an emotional bond with their mothers in order to be healthy. Although it is often said that this bond is due only to the need for food, Harry Harlow’s primate studies convinces us otherwise. The topic of sex within primates of the human and non-human form is very parallel. Just as with humans, the females invest much more in the birth and raising of an infant, so they tend to be much more choosey when it comes to picking a mate. On the contrary, the males do not have much to lose in mating with as many females as possible because their sperm is of high quantity. Erin Wayman’s article about primate warfare was noteworthy as she discussed the seemingly innate instinct to kill that has recently been studied in chimpanzees. It was incredible to see that it was not “senseless violence” that occurred among the primates but merely a result of their social situation, very similar to human warfare.
Wayman, Erin. “What Is War Good For? Ask a Chimpanzee.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 19 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 July 2016.