Primate Behavioral Ecology


Prerequisite: either Human Evolution (ANTH-UA 2) or Life Science: Human Origins (CORE-UA 305), or permission of the instructor. Studies how and why primates have evolved to be so social and varied in their social and mating systems, and why they exhibit so many unusual characteristics. Topics considered: primate biology and taxonomy, evolutionary theory and the history and philosophy of primate studies, natural selection and social systems, sexual selection and mating systems, and intelligence and communication.

Why do some primates live in large social groups while others are solitary and yet others live in pairs or cooperatively breeding families? Why are strong social hierarchies seen in some primate taxa but not in others? How do multiple species of primates often manage to coexist in the same habitat? Why are social relationships in some primate species characterized by strong bonds among females while such bonds are absent in other primates societies? Why do some species of primates show marked geographic variability in behavior and social structure? The answers to these and other questions lie in understanding the relationships between each species and its ecological and social setting and in understanding each species? phylogenetic history. In this course, students explore the diversity of primate social systems and the evolutionary relationships among the primates, and we discuss many of the general ecological laws that have been proposed by evolutionary biologists as the keys to understanding important features of primate behavior and ecology.






Fall 2020

James Paul Higham
MW: 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM 12WV G08
Megan Petersdorf
MW: 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM 12WV G08