Anthropology 212

Life of Primates

Course Description

PS Howler PS Mandrill PS B&W PS Vervet PS Woolly

We will pursue a question-oriented survey of the world's living primates. The objectives of the course are: (1) to acquire a broad knowledge of primate biology, i.e., anatomy, behavior, ecology, and cognition; (2) to foster appreciation of the fact that current human biology, including social behavior, cannot be understood without comparative reference to nonhuman primates; (3) to introduce some of the many unanswered questions challenging primatologists and anthropologists.

This course is the prerequisite for two upper division courses in Primate Biology (Anthropology 348 (Primate Behavioral Ecology), and Anthropology 350, Primatology and Human Evolution): you can be enrolled in 212 and these other courses concurrently in the same semester.

Instructor: Ryne A. Palombit

Prerequisites: None


Course Requirements:

Extra Credit Assignment
Students will be allowed to do an extra credit assignment once during the semester. This assignment involves reading and briefly summarizing two scientific papers (of your choice) from primate journals (specified by the Instructor). Successful fulfillment of the extra credit assignment will allow you to raise the grade of either Exam 1 or Exam 2 by 5% (whichever is better). A handout with details about the Extra Credit Assignment will be distributed after the first exam.

Online Pre-Exam Q-A Sessions

I encourage you to ask questions in lecture, but up until an announced day and time before each exam, I will also answer questions about the material presented in lecture in the Discussion area of the Sakai website for the course.  Details will be announced in class.

Lecture Schedule

Although I will try to keep to this schedule, the dates on which particular topics will be covered in class are subject to change. The dates of the exams will not be changed.

Reading Assignments are listed below. Do the reading before the relevant lecture.  Readings from other sources will be available online at the Sakai course website for the course.

Outlines for each lecture will be posted at the Sakai course website for the course approximate one lecture period before the date of the lecture.



Reading Assignment


Introduction: Why Study Primates?


Evolution & natural selection pp. 18-19, 43-44, 116-117
Weiner, Jonathan.  2005.  Evolution in action.  Natural History, November:47-51


What is a primate? pp. 1-13, 27 (Neural Note 1), 39-40 (tree shrews)

Palombit, Ryne A.  2008.  Primates.  In: International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences vol. 6, (W.A. Darity, ed.) pp. 459-462.  Macmillan Reference, Detroit.  (in particular: first section, prior to “Dietary Habits”)


Introducing the Primates: The "Primitive" Lemurs, Lorises, & Bushbabies
Chapters 3 (pp. 63-79) & 4
Handout (Sakai): A Taxonomy of Living Primates


Introducing the Primates:  Tarsiers & New World Monkeys Chapters 3 (pp 79-83), 5 & 6


Introducing the Primates:  Old World Monkeys & Apes
pp. 257-264, pp. 277-289, pp. 299-310, pp. 319-326


David Attenborough's A Life in the Trees Handout (Sakai):
Film Guide to A Life in the Trees
Perfection in Motion:
The structure & function of Locomotion
Review relevant material from previous chapters


Primate Diets
pp. 58-59, 123-124, 325 (Box 13)

Palombit, Ryne A.  2008.  Primates.  In: International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  (In particular, section “Dietary Habits”)

Kin Selection in theory & (primate) practice
(Or: why is blood thicker than water?)
pp. 43-44, 54-56.

Dawkins, Richard D. 2001.  Kin selection and reciprocal altruism. In: Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed., (D.W. MacDonald, ed.) p. xxxi.  Oxford University Press, London.  (NOTE: today we will do kin selection; next meeting we will do reciprocal altruism)



Covers material through "Primate Diets"


Reciprocity in theory & (primate) practice
(Or: why scratch my back if I scratch yours?
Wilkinson, Gerald S. 1990. Food sharing in vampire bats. Scientific American, 76:76-82.

Wilkinson, Gerald S. 2001.  Blood bat donors.  In: Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed., (D.W. MacDonald, ed.) pp. 766-767.  Oxford University Press, London.

de Waal, Frans B.M. 2005. How animals do business. American Scientist, 73-79.
Reproduction in theory & (primate) practice
(Or: why do the sexes differ?
pp. 43-44, 48, 50-54

Zuk, Marlene.  2008.  Sexual selection theory.  In: International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences (W.A. Darity, ed.) pp. 479-480.  Macmillan Reference, Detroit.
Primate Societies I

"Dispersed" Social Systems
pp. 49-50 (primate social system), 285-289

Palombit, Ryne A.  2008.  Primates.  In: International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.  In particular, section “Social Systems & Behavior”
Primate Societies II

Multi-male, Multi-Female Groups

pp. 51-53, 236-7, 246-255

Smuts, Barbara B.. 2001.  Friendships between the sexes.  In: Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed., (D.W. MacDonald, ed.) pp. 360-361.  Oxford University Press, London.

Primate Societies III

Uni-male, multi-female groups
Hierarchical fusion-fission social system

pp. 192-196, 206-207, 217-219, 308-311, 316
Veit, Peter G.  1982.  Gorilla society.  Natural History, 91 (3): 48-60.

Primate Societies IV

Dispersed fusion-fission social system

Social Monogamy
pp. 264-275
Researcg News: Gibbons, Ann.  1998.  ‘Monogamous’ gibbons really swing.  Science, 280:677-678.


Infanticide: Strategy & Counterstrategy

pp. 51, 194-196.

Hrdy, Sarah B. 1984. When the bough breaks. The Sciences, 24:44-50.

Palombit, Ryne A.  2001.  Why primates kill their young.  In: Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed., (D.W. MacDonald, ed.) pp. 392-393.  Oxford University Press, London

Covers material from "Kin selection" through "Infanticide" lectures
Male Dominance & Hormones

Recall pp. 249-55.

Sapolsky, Robert M. 1990. Stress in the wild. Scientific American, January:116-123.

Primate Politics?
pp.27 (Neural Note 1), p. 57 (Neural Note 2), 289-296, 311-315, 335-338

Byrne, Richard W. & Bates, Lucy A. 2005. Why are animals cognitive? Current Biology, 16:R445-R448.

Dunbar, Robin I.M.  2001.  Why primates have big brains.  In: Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2nd ed., (D.W. MacDonald, ed.)
Social Minds?
pp. 57, 242, 290 (Neural Note 11)
Minding minds?
pp. 336-338

Note: the reading below by Seyfarth & Cheney (1992) will also address some of today's issues in the context of vocal communication

pp. 335-337.

Seyfarth, Robert M. & Cheney, Dorothy L. 1992. Meaning and mind in monkeys. Scientific American, 267:122-128

Cultural Primatology
pp. 243-46, 319-321, 326-328, 335-337.

Whiten, Andrew W. 2005. The second inheritance system of chimpanzees and humans. Nature, 437:52-55.
Movie: Among the Wild Chimpanzees (National Geographic Society)

Our Closest Relatives:
Chimpanzee Are From Mars & Bonobos Are From Venus?

pp. 332-333.

de Waal, Frans B.M. 1995. Bonobo sex and society. Scientific American, 272:82-88.

de Waal, Frans B.M. 2005. A century of getting to know the chimpanzee. Nature, 437:56-59.


Final Exam
Covers material from "Male dominance & hormones" through last lecture