Understanding Primate Sociality & Reproductive Patterns

Primate Order:


Important issues:


Primate Life History Patterns

Relatively large brain size slows maturation of primates, extends the length of their reproductive cycle and gives them longer lives than other mammals. This puts a premium on learning as a key to survival and reproductive success, in addition to biological adaptation. Single births are the norm, and primate parents can improve their offspring's chance of survival through socio-behavioral investment.

Sociobiological Principles important for understanding Primate Social Organization

Strategies for reproductive success: avoiding predation, finding food, getting mates

Why do primates behave altruistically? The difference between Darwinian Fitness (personal reproductive success) and Inclusive Fitness -- also known as Kin selection -- favoring the reproductive success of yourself and your close kin.What are the advantages and disadvantages of group life, from a sociobiological perspective? (cooperation vs competition)

There is a great diversity of monkey species. There are three articles in your A105 reader that describe interesting traits of monkeys. "Junk Food Monkeys" describes some of the physiological traits we have in common with baboons. And then two articles focus on the complex social organization of monkeys, describing their mating strategies and social ranking behavior.

We will focus on understanding the social organization and mating structure of baboons in order to understand how primatologists study such issues.

Old World Monkey Case Study: Savanna Baboons: multi-male (male transfer) multi-female (Female bonded), ranked societies. Female reproductive cycle means females mate only once every two years. (they are only sexually receptive when they are in estrus). High social rank (dominance status) does not guarantee reproductive success... but altruistic behavior and "special relationships" can be an effective strategy. highly sexually dimorphic in body size and morphology

Field Primatology

For primatologists to understand the behavior of primates in nature, long-term field studies are necessary that use systematic techniques to record behavior. Assignment 2 is designed to give you some experience in these types of observations... studying the human primate!

Interested in Primates? Here are some additional links to check out:

Jane Goodall Institute

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