Social Behavior of Primates, Biology tutorial

Introduction:

Most of the primates, comprising humans, spend their lives in big social groups.  In the case of semi-terrestrial species, like baboons, being in a big community assists provide protection against predatory cats, dogs and hyenas. It as well helps protect scarce food resources. This is particularly true for non-human primates if the food is fruit. Leaf-eaters, like colobus monkeys and langurs, tend to form the smaller social groupings as there is little competition for their food.  The very few nocturnal species of primates are generally small, comparatively solitary hunters.

We are familiar that all primates (comprising us) form groups. Groups comprise such cohesive (that is, bonding) activities like grooming and mother-infant bonding. It is a manner to defend resources against intruders and to fend off predators, like leopards which inhabit the forests. Group behavior between primates is the most complicated among all the gregarious animals (that is, animals which form groups that as well comprise gazelles, bison, cattle, zebras and others).

Most of the non-human primate communities are more or less closed to contact by the members of other communities. Most frequently, they are tied to a specific locale and rarely migrate outside of their home range. This aloofness from other troops prevents high concentrations of the individuals which could outcome in rapid depletion of the local resources.  Communities generally ignore each other and are aggressive towards the outsiders. As an outcome, social interactions among members of various troops are generally much rare, particularly for females. Chimpanzees are a notable exception. If chimpanzees from various troops come altogether, there is often an exciting, friendly encounter lasting some hours, following which, a few of the adult females switch groups. In fact, they are in search of new mates.

Here are some concepts:

1) Ethology:  (Not to be perplexed with ethnology, study of cultures) is the study of the animal behavior.

2) Primatology: It is a sub-branch of ethology which comprises the study of nonhuman primates. One main subfield of physical anthropology is Primatology, that is, the study of nonhuman primates (such as monkeys and apes, comprising gibbons and orangutans of the Southeast Asia and the chimpanzees, gorillas and bonobos of Africa). Why are they relevant to the cultural anthropology...?  

3) Field Research: To evade influencing the primate behavior.

4) Provisioning: Giving food to primates to shorten time in field.

5) Drawback: Provisioning does affect the primate behavior.

Social Structure of primates:

Most of the primates, comprising humans, spend their lives in big social groups. In the case of semi-terrestrial species, like baboons, being in a big community helps give protection against the predatory dogs, cats and hyenas. It as well helps protect scarce food resources. This is particularly true for non-human primates if the food is fruit. Leaf-eaters, like colobus monkeys and langurs, tend to make smaller social groupings as there is little competition for their food.  Some of the nocturnal species of primates are mainly small, relatively solitary hunters.

Most of the non-human primate communities are more or less closed to contact by the members of other communities. Most frequently, they are tied to a specific locale and seldom migrate outside of their home range. This aloofness from other troops prevents high concentrations of individuals that could outcome in rapid depletion of the local resources. Communities generally avoid one other and are aggressive towards outsiders. As an outcome, social interactions among members of various troops are generally very rare, particularly for females. Chimpanzees are a notable exception. 

If chimpanzees from various troops come altogether, there is often an exciting, friendly encounter lasting some hours, following which, a few of the adult females switch groups.  In fact, they are seeking new mates.

Interactions in non-human primate communities are generally unlimited. Subgroups are seldom closed from group interaction. All the members of a community encompass daily face to face, casual communication. The most general kind of subgroup comprises of a mother and her young offspring.

Few forest living primates, contact between groups of the similar species is in the form of a specialized territorial defense behavior. Rather than avoiding each other, groups actively converge close to their common territorial border and make hostile displays. Howler monkeys, siamangs, indris and gibbons all generate exceptionally loud vocalizations for this reason. This is a ritualized, basically harmless form of aggression which is intended to intimidate members of the neighboring community. All four of such species live in home ranges which are generally so small that the food resources of neighboring territories can be viewed and become attractive.

Primates live in social groups which give diverse benefits such as protection, food, mates, learning of skills, grooming and parental care.

Non-human primate communities:

Most of the non-human primate communities are more or less closed to contact by the members of other communities. Most frequently, they are tied to a specific locale and rarely migrate outside of their home range. This aloofness from other troops prevents high concentrations of individuals that could outcome in rapid depletion of the local resources. Communities generally avoid one other and are aggressive towards the outsiders.  As an outcome, social interactions among members of various troops are generally much rare, particularly for females. Chimpanzees are a distinguished exception.  Whenever chimpanzees from various troops come altogether, there is often an exciting, friendly encounter lasting quite a few hours, following which, a few of the adult females switch groups. Apparently, they are looking for new mates.

Social group compositions among primates:

As there is considerable variation in the social group composition among the primates, there is much little variability in each species. However, most non-human primate species are restricted to only one of six fundamental patterns:

a) Single female and her offspring.              

b) Monogamous family group.

c) Polyandrous family group

d) One-male-many-female group

e) Many male-many female group

f) Fission-fusion society

Single Female and Her Offspring:

The single female and her offspring group prototype are rare for primates though common for other mammals. This is found among the orangutans and a few of the small nocturnal prosimians (example: mouse lemurs and galagos). The adult males lead their lives generally alone.  Though, they come altogether with females occasionally for mating. The males of such species usually encompass large territories which overlap those of some females. Both female and male children generally leave their mother when they reach the sexual maturity.

Monogamous Family Group:

Monogamous groups comprise of an adult female and male with their children. When they are grown, the children leave to make their own nuclear families. As this group pattern is the most common one for humans, it is uncommon for non-human primates.  It is found among the small Asian apes and also some of the New World monkeys and prosimians. Particularly, monogamous family groups are the general pattern for gibbons, titi monkeys, siamangs, indris, tarsiers and apparently a few pottos.

Polyandrous Family Group:

The smallest New World monkeys, the tamarins and marmosets, form both monogamous and polyandrous family units. They usually begin by a monogamous mating pair. Afterward, a second adult male might join the family and help in child rearing. When this takes place, both adult males will potentially mate by the adult female. This polyandrous mating pattern is very rare among non-human primates however does take place in some human societies in the isolated rural areas of Sri Lanka, India and especially Nepal and Tibet.

One-Male-many-Female Group:

One-male-many-female groups have polygynous mating prototypes. That is to state, one male regularly mates by more than one female. Polygyny is usually not a promiscuous mating prototype. Instead, the male and his female mates form a distinct mating and child rearing group.  This prototype is found among hamadryas baboons, langurs, geladas, howler monkeys, gorillas and most of the human societies. It has been a culturally preferred marriage prototype in many Native American, African and South Asian cultures. Though, polygyny is not as general among humans as monogamy, even in the cultures which advocate it.

It would be a fault to automatically suppose that non-human primate one-male-many-female groups are dominated through males. Among geladas, females mostly control the social group.  This is in spite of the fact that the males are stronger, larger and more aggressive. Mothers, sisters and aunts act as a team in chasing off other not related females. They as well collectively choose their mutual mate among a number of potential suitors roaming in and out of their territory. The male which is selected generally is one that doesn't act rudely towards them and is willing to cooperate with them in securing their territory. The relationship with any specific male might be short-term. The stable core of the community is the group of associated females. This is a long way from stereotypical male domination. 

One-male-many female groups might take a different form when predator pressure is a problem.  In open grasslands, hamadryas baboon communities are much larger, often comprising of a number of polygynous families. In such multiple one-male-many-female group societies, males are the dominant, controlling members. The adult males not just 'herd' their own sexually mature females, however as well maintain order and protect the community from predators. This is not unlike the traditional Arab polygynous marriage pattern in which the wealthy men get harems.

In contrary, gorillas rarely have to be concerned regarding predator dangers. Afterward, their communities generally comprise of a single dominant adult male, his mates and their children.  When males reach maturity, they generally are driven off by the dominant silverback male.  Such exiled males ultimately form their own one-male-many-female groups.  As females reach sexual maturity, they as well leave their biological families and disperse. They afterward join with single males to form new families or they join the families of males who already have mates.  If the silver back males have strangely peaceful personalities, the gorilla community might have some of them.

Multimale-Multifemale Group:

The most general social group prototype among semi-terrestrial primates is the multimale-multifemale group. By this pattern, there are no stable heterosexual bonds--both males and females contain a number of different mates. This is a feature of savanna baboons, macaques and also some colobus and New World monkey species.

Multimale-multifemale groups generally encompass a dominance hierarchy among both females and males. Each individual is ranked relative to all other community members of the similar gender. This tends to decrease serious violence in the community since everyone knows in advance who they should defer to and who should be submissive to them. Among rhesus macaques, one's position in the dominance hierarchy is found out by the rank of his or her mother.  The top ranking individuals are termed to by primatologists as the alpha female and the alpha male. All the other community members defer to them. A female's rank in the hierarchy stays with her all through life. Though, most young adult male rhesus macaques leave their natal community and finally join others to find out mates. Whenever they do so, they begin at the bottom of the male dominance hierarchy again. Alpha males generally mate more frequently than others. This makes the social organization apparently look similar to one-male-many-female group.  Though, younger females frequently sneak off to mate by males lower down on the dominance hierarchy. The stable core of rhesus macaque communities is the group of female relatives. They stay in their natal community all through life and work as a team to defend it against the other females.

Fission-Fusion Society

A fission-fusion society is one in which the social group size and composition change all the way through the year having different activities and situations. This is the social pattern typical of chimpanzees. Individuals enter and leave the communities from time to time. Adult males rarely wander off and forage alone or join a few other males in the hunting party. Females casually change membership from one group to another. This takes place especially if females are in estrus and seeking mates. As an outcome, foraging and sleeping groups reform often. Male chimps are the relatively stable core of the community as they hardly ever join other troops.

What lets for the usually loose relationship among chimpanzee communities is that they in fact identify a broader range of social bonds than do monkeys.  They frequently have relatives and friends in some different neighboring troops. 

Whenever chimpanzee communities come altogether, they generally exchange friendly greetings instead of show aggression. Though, it would be a mistake to suppose from this that chimpanzee society is for all time peaceful. The adult males in each community are often engaged in complex political activities comprising scheming and physical intimidation in order to move up the dominance hierarchy. 

They build up short-term alliances with other males through mutual support, sharing meat, and all grooming.  It is not always the biggest and strongest males who make it to the top of the hierarchy. Frequently teamwork employed to frighten and impress is more efficient than any one individual's muscles in accomplishing chimpanzee goals. This is a sign of their intelligence. Chimpanzees are not merely primates which change group membership from time to time.  For example, adult rhesus macaque males generally should permanently leave the community of their birth and try to join others in order to get mates.  This is not simple as they are not warmly welcomed in their adoptive troop.  Group composition of a few langur and baboon species as well change as a result of the availability of food and mates. Obviously, none of these monkey species change group composition by the ease and frequency of chimpanzees. As an outcome, their societies are not generally termed to as fission-fusion kinds.

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