Primate Behavior Essay, Research Paper
Why do we study primate behavior? The answer is simple: To learn more about ourselves, and how we, as humans, might have been in our evolutionary past. By studying other primates, we can learn many things about ourselves, and our more animalistic behaviors. We can learn and develop a series of derived traits or our ancestral traits. Through archaeology we can interpret our ancestor s social patterns and trace the development of our own human culture. Primates are like a mirror into our past, understanding them is necessary to understanding ourselves. We have already learned much. We have learned that primates can recognize their kin, and form social hierarchies around this kinship. We have witnessed primates forming coalitions, and waiting years, to overthrow these kinship hierarchies. We have seen primates deliberately deceive each other How alike to humans are the rest of the other primates? Genetically, they are very similarly; and chimpanzees are the closest to us genetically. How do chimpanzees exhibit the above characteristics and why are these three aspects of primate behavior important? And could these other primates develop into humanoid life forms as we have developed? Only by studying primates can all of these questions be answered. Let us discuss these three aspects of primate behavior: Kinship structures, formation of coalitions, and deliberate deception. These three are important and give real insight into primate behavior.
The first important aspect of primate behavior is their ability to form kinship hierarchies. These kinship hierarchies are based on the fact that primates can recognize their kin. Understanding these kinship ties is important to understanding primate behavior because it is the basis many of its other behaviors are founded. Kinship is so rooted in some primate societies that there have been documented cases of primates that have been unsuccessful at joining another group have crawled back over miles of rough terrain to die at the sides of their mother and other kin. This shows the deep emotional connection between primates and their mothers. Being able to distinguish between relatives enables primates to avoid mating with their relatives. Like humans, primates avoid incest. Primates are also able to take advantage of their kin and their place in the social hierarchy. There are have been instances observed where the infant of a high ranking female in a group desires the food of a low ranking infant, so the high ranking sibling screams causing the lower ranking primate to drop the food and scurry away before the high ranking mother arrives. This sneaky behavior is remarkably human. This seemingly innate ability primates have at learning behavior is amazingly parallel to human infants. This strong kinship bond is also very prevalent in the formation of coalitions. The formations of coalitions are a separate aspect of primate behavior in its own right, but many of those coalitions form between members of a family. These kinship bonds are the bases of their social structures and the kinship bound coalitions are what keeps the more talented primates at the top of their social hierarchies.
The ability to form coalitions is the second important aspect of primate behavior. Many of the conflicts that arise within a primate group are because of coalitions between a primate groups members. One such example consists of chimpanzees: Yerone, Nikki, and Luit. Yerone was the alpha male and was defeated by Luit who became the new alpha male. Over a period of three years Yerone waited and with the aid of Nikki, defeated and killed Luit. This battle between the older Yerone and physically stronger Luit, would have left Luit as alpha male had Yerone not formed a coalition with Nikki. In other cases siblings have grouped together to over throw higher-ranking females. These coalitions are the product of reciprocal altruism. Reciprocal altruism is defined as consisting of these three things: The opportunity to interact often, the ability to keep track of support given and received, and primate be willing to provide support for those who cooperate. Essentially it is a “I scratch your back you scratch mine” relationship. Benefits of forming a coalition with the alpha male include mating rights, and being able to eat bigger portions of food and having the strong arm on your side in any conflicts a primate might encounter. Such relationships within the group show how primate behavior can be surprising human. In the case of Yerone, Nikki, and Luit. the Overthrow took years. This is remarkable than these primates could wait for song long and plan for the right moment to gang up on Luit. This shows how primates remember and keep track of support within the coalition of primates. Keeping track of these alliances really shows the complexity of the primate social structure and the importance of understanding them to understand primate behavior.
A remarkable aspect of primate behavior is the ability of primates to deliberately deceive each other. This shows how primates can learn and imitate other primates, albeit on an extremely limited level. There have been cases observed where primates hide behind rocks and other obstacles to remain out of view of the alpha male why members of a group groom each other in secrecy. In another case, two primates are having a conflict where one screams and attracts the attention of its more powerful allies. The one that now finds himself in serious disadvantage pretends to see predators off in the distance which causes all the other primates to stop what they are doing and essentially forget about him. This distraction helped him avoid another much larger conflict. In another case, a chimpanzee has his back turned to his competition while he “creates a false image” of himself by physically tucking his lips over his teeth to avoid being seen with his fear grin, after successfully altering his image he then turns to face the aggressor. In a kinship based example of deception, an infant whose mother has refused to nurse them went over and invoked his fathers anger by pulling on his hair until the father swats at the infant, then runs back to the mother who is then willing to nurse the infant. This manipulation of his mother shows how infants can use deception to influence their kinship. Even in playtime primates deceive their peers, by such acts as splashing water on them and turning around and “pretending” like nothing had happened. Concealment, distraction, creating false images, and using deception as a social tool shows how primates can deliberately deceive each other for their own ends; thus making it an aspect of primate behavior that must be studied.
Through Kinship structures, coalitions, and deception primates have proved how remarkably human their behavior can be. That is why we must study them. Through them, we will reach a greater understanding of human evolution and of our own cultural evolution. Through these studies and the evidence contained within the archaeological record, perhaps someday we can come to a complete understanding of our past. By studying the behavior of primates, we can come to a better understanding of how our own culture evolved and perhaps in the future, recognize signs of other cultures starting to form in other non-human primates. And millions of years from now perhaps other cultures will look back and trace our evolution and study our behavior and interpret it as their ancestral past.