Anthropology 348

Primate Behavioral Ecology

Course Description
(© Ryne A. Palombit)

"He who understands [the] baboon,
would do more toward metaphysics than Locke."
--Charles Darwin

Behavior is an evolved biological phenomenon, and in this course we will explore why nonhuman primates behave as they do.  Our emphasis will be on understanding the adaptive significance of the diversity of primate social behavior within an ecological context.  The objectives of the course are: (1) to understand how to think “functionally” about problems in Biology; (2) to appreciate the great variation in ecology and behavior in primates; (3) to apply the functional approach—Darwin’s concept of natural selection—to explain that variation

Instructor: Ryne A. Palombit
001 Biological Sciences Bldg (Douglass Campus)
Phone: (732) 932-5214
Prerequisite: Anthropology 212 (Life of Primates) (it is OK to fulfill prereq by taking 212 and 348 concurrently)


1.  Midterm (25%)
2.  Final Exam (30%)
3.  Term Paper (35%)
4.  Class Discussions (5%) & Term Paper Topic Assignment (5%)

Midterm & Final Exams:
The questions for each exam will be handed out in lecture one week before the exam date.  You have the week the prepare your answers.  You’ll write them in blue book.  You can bring to the exam one sheet of paper with notes on one side to assist you in writing the essays.

The Term Paper:
The Term Paper will be on a subject of your choice, but must have both a topical and an organismal focus (e.g., “Why are marmosets polyandrous?”).  The paper employs evolutionary theory to interpret some social or ecological phenomenon (e.g., sexual dimorphism, polyandry, monogamy, folivory, polyspecific associations, etc.), and it must cover the literature on some taxonomic subset of primates (a species [e.g., orangutans], or genus [e.g., Pan], or subfamily [e.g., Callitrichinae], etc.).  You are expected to use the library’s reference tools to ensure use of the recent literature & also to learn to do scholarly work.  A handout dealing with the term paper will be distributed. The paper should be about 10 pages, double-spaced.  Email a “why” question about a specific phenomenon in a particular taxon to me on or before the date provided (5% of your course grade for this) & I will provide feedback.  Some topics (e.g., locomotion, cognition) don’t work well.  Students cannot duplicate topics & taxa: topics are allocated on “first come, first serve” basis (so email as soon as you have your topic, but be prepared to switch if someone else is already doing it).

Schedule of Meetings & Readings

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.  After each lecture, I will post an outline for that lecture.  Readings may be modified (additions or deletions) as the semester progresses.

Intro to Course
Biomes & Biogeography (& review of African primates) pp. 1-7, 14, 52-61, 73-87, Appendix (pp. 376-387)
Biomes & Biogeography (& a review of the rest of the pimates)
Same as above
Asking Evolutionary Questions
pp. 8-11, 23-25, 111-114

Krebs, J.R. & Davies, N.B.  1997.  The evolution of behavioural ecology.  In: Behavioural Ecology: An Evolutionary Approach, 4th ed., (J.R. Krebs & N.B. Davies, eds.), pp. 3-12.  Blackwell Science, Oxford.
Behavioral Ecology: Basics
pp. 26-35, 68-72, 8-89, 99-110, 11-124

Hinde, R.A.  1975.  The concept of function.  In: Function and Evolution in Behavior (G. Baerends, C. Beer & A. Manning, eds.), pp. 3-15.  Clarendon, Oxford.
Primate Foods: Nutritional Aspects
Chapter 6 (pp. 179-193), Chapter 11 (pp. 344-353)
Feeding & Metabolism
p. 40-42, Chapter 6 (pp. 179-193 again)

Bonner, J.T.  2006.  Matters of size.  Natural History, 115 (9): 54-59.
Feeding Specializations

Economics of Ranging
pp. 18-19, 68-70, 195-198
Economics of Territoriality
pp. 19-20
Primate Niches & Communities
Chapter 11 (pp. 333-343)
Movie (TBA)
Email me the TOPIC and TAXON of your term paper
Reproduction & sexual selection theory
Chapter 5 (pp. 141-148)
Male-male competition I: Precopulatory (anatomical)
Chapter 5 (pp. 148-168, 175-178)

Male-male competition II: Precopulatory (vocal)  & Postcopulatory (sperm competition)
Harcourt, A.H.  1995.  Sexual selection and sperm competition in primates: What are male genitalia good for?  Evolutionary Anthropology, 4:121-129.
Female Choice: Theory  Precopulatory
Chapter 5 (pp. 168-175)

Fisher, R.A.  1958.  The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection, 2nd ed., Dover, New York. (Excerpt)
Female Choice: Precopulatory Indicator Mechanisms

Female Choice: Postcopulatory (Cryptic Female Choice)
Eberhard, W.G.  1990.  Animal genitalia and female choice.  Scientific American, 78:134-141.
Survey of Predators of Primates: What eats primates?

Social Evolution I
Anti-Predator Models
Hamilton, W.D. 1971. Geometry for the selfish herd.  Journal of Theoretical Biology, 31:295-311.

Rodman, P.S.  1980.  Why monkeys live together.  International Wildlife, 10:18-23.
Social Evolution II: Resource Defense Model
Chapter 5 (pp. 148-168); Chapter 6 (pp. 194-208); Chapter 7 & 8
Pan-Pongo Comparison

Social Evolution III: Foraging Models Chapters 7 & 8
Infanticide as selective force
MacDonald, D.W.  2001.  Infanticide—A major factor in mammalian sociology.  Excerpt from The Encyclopedia of Mammals, pp. xxiv-xxv, Oxford University Press, London.
Evolution of Monogamy Chapter 9 (pp. 267-270)

Morell, V.  1998.  A new look at monogamy.  Science, 21:1982-1983.
Sexual Conflict: Sexual Coercion Hosken, D.J. & Stockley, P.  2005.  Sexual conflict.  Current Biology, 15:R535-R536.

Smuts, B.B.  1995. The apes of wrath.  Discover Magazine.

Final Exam