anthro 101 primate observation nonhuman primate observation paper

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Purpose:

  • To become familiar with two nonhuman primate species in a real-life setting live and first-hand
  • To personally see some of the physical characteristics and behaviors discussed in class and the readings
  • To exercise evolutionary thinking about your own observations of real primates
  • And to gain a greater understanding of organs of human behavior

What you do:

  • Prepare in advance
  • Print at least two copies of the Primate Observation form, single-sided, so you can write on the back if necessary. You may want to print one or two extras, just in case, and to take pre-visit notes on. These are for your use only; you will use them to write a paper.
  • Pick and read a little about four species of nonhuman primates that are at the zoo you intend to visit or view. Link (Links to an external site.)While the assignment covers only two species, read up on four, because some of them will be asleep, hiding, or just not doing anything interesting. Use the index in the textbook to find sections that discuss these species, or relatives of the same genus or family. Read up on the four species in the textbook and, if you like, the zoo web sites, other books, or elsewhere. Take notes that you will use to fill out the parts of the Primate Observation form that call for information about the primates in the wild, like:
    • Their formal and common names and their taxonomic categories (infraorder, superfamily, etc.)
    • The environment they live in the wild their typical group composition in the wild
    • Also, take notes that will help you with your observations, in particular:
    • Features that distinguish males from females (this may not be easy, so prepare in advance!)
    • Any features or behaviors that the species is notable for or that would be interesting to observe,
    • Including physical characteristics, forms of locomotion, sexual dimorphism, social behavior, and so on
  • Although you will turn these forms in, the form is meant only to be a tool to direct your attention as you observe the primates, not a polished final product. You may want to write casual notes on the back of the form or elsewhere, as well. Try to verify (or contradict) the claims about behavior, sexual dimorphism, and other features that you read about. Zoo staff is often happy to talk about the animals, answer questions (is that one a juvenile or an adult female? etc.) and point out interesting things you might not have noticed. They watch them all day!
    • Consider suggesting some evolutionary explanations
  • After your observation, write one to two pages (5 paragraphs) comparing each species. Specifically, for each species, pick a physical feature that you observed and discuss why natural selection might have favored it for that species in its native physical and social environment. That is, how might this feature have contributed to reproductive success or inclusive fitness? Then pick a behavior that you observed and discuss why natural selection might have favored it for that species in its native physical and social environment. In other words, discuss how the selected feature might have affected the primate’s ecological adaptation, food gathering, social strategies, mating strategies, etc. in ways that improved its reproductive success or inclusive fitness. In some cases, you might have to consider the differences between males and females. Be creative, but try to be realistic and logical, too. You may find suggested explanations for some physical or behavioral features in the course material or online, but you do not need to search for an authoritative answer. I understand that you may not know an accepted, “correct” explanation for the feature of the primate you are describing. Instead, your task here is just to suggest a hypothesis that should make sense and not obviously, conflict with anything a student in this class should know. This is where you go beyond just watching, and really try to understand and explain what you see. You may get useful suggestions from Zoo staff, signs, or research that you do before or after your visit. Feel free to discuss multiple features if you have something to say about more than one physical and one behavioral trait. Your discussion for each species should be one to two double-spaced, computer printed pages.
  • Please write 5 paragraphs. Each paragraph need to be more than 250 words.

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