Primate Behavior Slideshow

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1) Monkeys, apes and the other primates are social animals. Most individuals live their entire lives in groups.

Notes: The Primate – Behavior of Social Animals
Artwork © by: Chris Lutmerding

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2) The first social interactions of a newborn primate are with mother. The mountain gorilla is very careful to support her young infant as it clings to her. All primates seek contact with mother as soon as they are born — and most are able to cling on their own within a day or two of birth.

Scientific name: Gorilla gorilla beringei
Question: What species is this?
Photo © by: Bill Weber & Amy Vedder

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3) Unlike many other animals, primates do not leave their infants in a nest or other protected area. Instead, mothers carry their infants wherever they go. Infants may cling to the belly or, as this young uakari is doing, ride on mother’s back.

Notes: Mother bald uakari carries infant on her back
Scientific name: Cacajao calvus
uakari — wah-CAR-ee
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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4) When they are at rest, mother and baby usually sleep in ventral-ventral, or belly-to-belly, contact. But a curious infant, such as this spider monkey, spends as much time as possible looking around at the world.

Notes: Mother and infant spider monkeys (another South American species) resting in a tree
Scientific name: Ateles geoffroyi
Question: Why do infants spend much of their time on mother’s belly?
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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5) Meeting the other members of the social group is an important experience for young primates. Here a juvenile spider monkey is contacted by the new infant.

Notes: Juvenile spider monkey looks at infant on mother’s back.
Juvenile refers to the years between infancy and adulthood. For spider monkeys this is 1 – 4 years old.
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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6) For primates, as all other mammals, mother is a source of food. This young Japanese macaque nurses while its mother is groomed by another monkey. At first, mothers carefully guard their infants, and may prevent others from touching the new baby. Interested animals are allowed near the infant only after reassuring the mother of their friendly intentions.

Notes: Mother Japanese macaque holds nursing infant while troop member grooms her.
Scientific name: Macaca fuscata
macaque — ma-KACK
Why are mothers so protective of their young infants?
Why do other members of the group find infants attractive?

Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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7) Contact with the mother is an important first social experience for humans, too.

Notes: Human female carries an infant.
Scientific name: Homo sapiens
Photo © by: Laura L. McMahon

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8) Although all primates live in social groups, the nature of those groups differs between species. Group size, the number of adult males and adult females, and who does most of the breeding all vary between species.

Notes: Title Slide: Primate Groups Families, Bands, Troops
All terms are defined in the script.
Artwork © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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9) The siamangs shown here live in a family unit consisting of an adult male, adult female and their young offspring. This is similar to the basic living unit of many humans — mom, dad and the kids.

Notes: Family group of siamangs showing adult male (top), adult female (middle) and their offspring (bottom).
Scientific name: Symphalangus syndactylus
siamangs — SI-a-mangs
Photo © by: Alan Shoemaker

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10) Other primates live in groups with only one adult male and several adult females plus their offspring. In a gorilla group the adult male, called a silverback, fathers the offspring of all the females living with him.

Notes: Group of mountain gorillas in African forest.
Ask students to look for the adult male silverback in the foreground.
Photo © by: Martha Robbins

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11) The single male group structure is also found in some species of monkey. Here the large male hamadryas baboon walks at the front of a group of adult females.

Notes: A group of female hamadryas baboons follow the large adult male in a zoo enclosure.
hamadryas — hom-uh-DRY-us
Students may notice the genital swellings on one female. These indicate sexual receptivity.
Photo © by: Nancy Staley

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12) Multi-male groups are also common among the primates. Chimpanzee bands are made up of several adults of both sexes and their offspring. Such bands are temporary associations of animals who live in a larger community. Relationships between adult males are very important in these groups.

Notes: Three male chimpanzees sit together. Photo taken in a zoo group.
Scientific name: Pan troglodytes
Question: Can you think of examples of temporary associations of humans who live in a larger community?
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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13) Some species of monkeys, such as these stumptail macaques, also live in groups with more than one adult of each sex. Relationships among adult females are most important in the social structure of these stable troops.

Notes: A group of stumptail macaques feeding.
Scientific name: Macaca arctoides
macaques — ma-KACKS
Photo © by: Ernesto R. Luna

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14) All primates need to learn how to be a successful member of a social group. Young animals spend a great deal of time learning social skills through play. This young chimpanzee invites a companion to play.

Notes: Young chimpanzee extends arm in an invitation to play.
Question: What is play? How can you tell when an animal is playing?
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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15) All primates play. Here a group of lemurs engage in the most common form of play. This activity, characterized by chasing and wrestling, is called rough-and-tumble play. It seems to allow young animals to learn their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as that of their peers.

Notes: Group of ring-tailed lemurs wrestling.
Scientific name: Lemur catta
lemurs — LEE-mers
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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16) Social play occurs when two or more individuals engage in a behavior that has no apparent serious purpose, although it may resemble the behaviors used by adults in their social lives. Humans often call this playing games.

Notes: Two human children play soccer.
Does this match the definition of play given by students?
Photo © by: Laura L. McMahon

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17) For most primates, play involves physical contact. Here are two chimpanzees wrestling.

Notes: Young chimpanzees at play in a zoo.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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18) Gorillas like to wrestle too.

Notes: Two young gorillas play in the forest.
Photo © by: Bill Weber & Amy Vedder

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19) Play frequently occurs between animals of different sizes. These gorillas are engaging in rough play, but the smaller animal rarely gets hurt in a play bout.

Notes: A young lowland gorilla plays with an older juvenile in a zoo.
Scientific name: Gorilla gorilla gorilla
Question: How can you tell these animals are playing?
Photo © by: Rich Block

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20) Even in the roughest form of play, animals are seldom hurt. Older animals know that if a younger animal is hurt or scared, a scream can bring mother running to defend her baby. This interaction between a juvenile chimpanzee and an infant may look dangerous, but both animals know it is only play.

Notes: In the foreground, a juvenile chimpanzee drags an infant. Adult female chimpanzees in background appear unconcerned, while another infant watches the play bout.
Question for young students: Can you find all the animals?
Question for older students: Can you think of an example of rough play between humans of different ages? How do the participants know it is only play?
Photo © by: Nancy Staley

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21) Knowing the intentions of other group members is vitally important to social animals. Primates use all the senses — sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch — in communicating with each other.

Notes: Title Slide: How do primates communicate?
Question: How do humans communicate?
Artwork © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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22) All primates rely heavily on vision to explore their world. It is not surprising that facial expressions are an important communication tool. The youngest animals quickly learn to recognize the play face. The rhesus macaques, shown here with mouth open, demonstrate the play face seen in all monkeys, apes, and even humans at play.

Notes: Two rhesus monkeys wrestle.The animal on top (with head upside down) shows the open mouth play face.
Scientific name: Macaca mulatta
rhesus macaques – REE-sus ma-KACKS
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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23) Friendly intentions are also being communicated here by the rhesus monkey looking towards the camera. She is lip-smacking, an active facial expression that invites another animal to join the group.

Notes: A group of rhesus monkeys. One animal looks toward the camera. Photo taken in a zoo enclosure.
To lip-smack, pucker up your lips, and open and close t hem rapidly.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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24) Primates are also very good at communicating when they are not happy about a social interaction. Here another rhesus monkey screams and grins. This bared teeth expression is usually shown by the loser in a less-than-friendly encounter.

Notes: A mother rhesus macaque at center with her offspring responds to threats from two other monkeys.
Question: What do you think is happening in this picture? What is the animal in the center of the screen communicating?
Photo © by: Irwin Bernstein

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25) Many primate species have unusual faces. This golden snub-nosed monkey from China shows an eye-catching combination of contrasting facial colors.

Notes: Closeup of face of a golden snub-nosed monkey.
The flaps of skin at the corners of the mouth are a normal facial feature of adult males in this species.
Photo © by: Yan Kanghui

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26) Scientists think one purpose of such a face is that it permits other animals to get a very clear view of all facial expressions. The yawn has several meanings for primates. A yawning animal is more likely to be nervous than tired.

Notes: A golden snub nosed monkey yawns, showing large canine teeth.
Scientific name: Rhinopithecus roxellanae
Most adult male higher primates have large canine teeth. Humans are an exception.
Photo © by: Columbus Zoo

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27) Primates pay close attention to the body language of other members of their group. Here a chimpanzee begins an action that is also performed by humans.

Notes: An adult chimpanzee with back to camera begins to bow to a second chimpanzee.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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28) The bow is a sign of submission that indicates to the animal receiving it that he or she is dominant. Most primate groups have a dominance hierarchy. Lower ranking animals can avoid fights with higher ranking animals by performing a formal sign of submission, such as a bow, when tensions are high.

Notes: Completion of the chimpanzee bow.
Make sure your students understand the concept of dominance hierarchy.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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29) Primate body language can be very impressive. Here an adult male chimpanzee, on the left, stands with all his hair on end. This is called piloerection — it makes an animal look larger to the nearby audience.

Notes: Three chimpanzees in a zoo enclosure. The adult male on the left facing the camera is getting ready to run by the animals on the right.
Question: How do humans try to change their appearance to impress other people?
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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30) Next, the chimpanzee male charges past the group members he is trying to impress.

Notes: Adult male chimpanzee runs past two other chimpanzees. Edge of enclosure is marked by moat in the foreground.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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31) Chimpanzees may also charge directly at another individual. This kind of display does not signal the beginning of a fight — only an attempt to impress another animal. In this picture, two males are confronting each other.

Notes: Two adult male chimpanzees confront each other. Animal in the foreground stands bipedally and is piloerected.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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32) In a tense situation, animals usually can tell when a conflict is about to occur. Here one chimpanzee chases a displaying opponent away.

Notes: Three chimpanzees on climbing structure in zoo enclosure. Piloerected animal in front had been displaying. Male in center is chasing him away.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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33) Body posture also signals when an opponent no longer wants to fight. This screaming chimpanzee’s lowered body position indicates submission.

Notes: Screaming chimpanzee crouches on the ground.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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34) These lemurs are using another kind of body language — signaling with their tails in the air. Tail position can communicate alertness and self-confidence.

Notes: Three ring-tailed lemurs from a captive group stand with tails in ‘question mark’ position. Animals are wearing identification collars.
lemurs — LEE-mers
Photo © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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35) Body language is also important in humans. A hand-shake is a common expression of goodwill between people.

Notes: Two humans shake hands at an outdoor event.
Photo © by: Laura L. McMahon

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36) Primates use their sense of smell to communicate, too. Here a sifaka leaves a scent mark on a tree.

Notes: A sifaka (related to the lemurs) rubs a scent-producing anal gland against the bark of a tree.
Scientific name: Propithecus verreauxi
sifaka — sih-FAHK-ah
Photo © by: Herbert L. Gustafson

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37) A cotton-top tamarin sniffs at a scent left by another individual in a captive group of monkeys. Scents may mark territorial boundaries, let other animals know where to find food, or communicate when animals of the opposite sex are ready to mate.

Notes: A cotton-top tamarin, a small South American monkey, sniffs at an odor-containing vial. This animal lives in a captive group used in studies of communication.
Scientific name: Saguinus oedipus
tamarin — TAM-ah-rin
Question: Do humans use scents to communicate?
Photo © by: Ann Savage

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38) Primates use sound to communicate as well. Many animals have complex calls that let others know of danger, or when they are intruding on another group’s territory. This howler monkey gets its name from the loud call it produces.

Notes: A brown howler — a South American monkey — faces right as it calls from a tree. Notice the enlarged lower jaw which allows this monkey to produce a loud, resonating call.
Scientific name: Alouatta fusca
Photo © by: Luis Claudio Marigo

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39) Most primates live in forests, and are able to produce some calls that carry long distances, such as hooting by this chimpanzee. Softer sounds are used when group members are near each other. Humans use sound to communicate when they talk.

Notes: Adult male chimpanzee stands bipedally and hoots.
If you dare — ask your students to imitate a chimp hooting. Many will know this call which gets faster and louder as it continues.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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40) Touch is a very important sense for primates. Social animals have many friendly interactions throughout the day — and most involve some form of touch. Mothers and infants spend a lot of time in contact, as do play partners, sexual partners, and other members of a social group.

Notes: Title slide: Friendly Behaviors Contact is important to primates
Question: How do humans use touch to communicate?
Artwork © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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41) These young macaques are using in a play bout a form of touch used by adults to initiate a sexual interaction. The animal standing on four feet is presenting her rear end to a partner. He responds by touching her hips and standing.

Notes: Two young macaques from a mixed species captive group. The female stands quadrupedally while the male stands behind her.
macaques — ma-KACKS
Warning: The next four slides include graphic primate sexual behavior
Photo © by: Irwin Bernstein

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42) An adult female stumptail macaque presents to an adult male. He responds by touching her rear, and visually inspecting it for signs that she is in her fertile period and thus ready to mate.

Notes: An adult female stumptail macaque presents her genital area to an adult male. He will look, smell, touch and even taste her secretions to learn if she is ready to mate.
Primates rely on many signals to determine the reproductive state of animals of the opposite sex.
Photo © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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43) Here a female chimpanzee presents to a male. The swollen skin around her genitals gives a visual signal that she is fertile.

Notes: A female chimpanzee (lying on her side) presents her genitals to an adult male. Notice her genital swellings
Question: How do humans communicate that they are ready to mate?
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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44) A typical copulation or mating in most primates involves the male mounting the female from the rear.

Notes: A male Japanese macaque mounts a female.
Photo © by: Linda D. Wolfe

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45) The female Japanese macaque reaches back and looks at her partner during their mating.

Notes: Later in the same sequence, the female Japanese macaque looks over her shoulder at the male. This often occurs when the male ejaculates.
macaque — ma-KACK
Photo © by: Linda D. Wolfe

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46) Physical contact between animals is a part of most friendly interactions in primates. Here two Japanese macaques sit together in close contact.

Notes: Two adult Japanese macaques huddle together.
Photo © by: Linda D. Wolfe

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47) These golden snub-nosed monkeys show the same pattern of contact. This type of touch, called a huddle, can occur when animals are resting or sleeping.

Notes: Two golden snub-nosed monkeys, living in a Chinese research facility, embrace.
Monkeys do huddle in cold weather for warmth. In the wild snub-nosed monkeys survive snowy winters. However all monkeys huddle, even in the hottest weather, for social contact.
Photo © by: Yan Kanghui

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48) Another very important friendly physical contact is social grooming. Here one monkey grooms a partner who is offering her chest to be groomed.

Notes: A female Japanese macaque lies on her back while another animal grooms her.
Question: Have you ever seen animals groom each other? Can you describe what they did?
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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49) When animals groom, they look through the fur and remove any debris they find, such as dirt, dead skin or parasites.

Notes: An adult female hamadryas baboon (an African monkey) grooms an adult male.
Scientific name: Papio hamadryas
Photo © by: Hans Kummer

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50) Social grooming not only helps animals keep clean; it reinforces bonds between related animals and other members of a social group.

Notes: Three long-tailed macaques sit together. The adult female in the center grooms a juvenile on the right.
Scientific name: Macaca fascicularis
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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51) In a group of monkeys, such as these long-tailed macaques, mothers groom their infants; females groom males; males groom females; older offspring groom their mother. All combinations of grooming partners are possible.

Notes: A large group of long-tailed macaques, including some mothers holding infants on their bellies, sit together. An adult male in the top row is being groomed by two other animals.
Question for younger students: Can you find all the animals?
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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52) Social animals don’t always get along with the members of their group. Fights and other forms of aggression are a common occurrence in primate groups.

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53) Unfriendly behavior usually begins with a threat. Here an adult gorilla shows the body posture and facial expression that lets an opponent know a fight is possible.

Notes: Adult female lowland gorilla (standing), living in a zoo group, stares at an opponent off-camera. A juvenile sits near her.
This is called a pursed lip threat posture. Look at the stiff arms and the tight position of the lips.
Photo © by: Nancy Staley

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54) Staring at an opponent is often part of a threat. This rhesus macaque shows the open mouth threat face used by many species of monkey.

Notes: A female rhesus macaque holding an infant stares off camera at an opponent.
rhesus macaque – REE-sus ma-KACK
Question: Does staring have a meaning in human communication?
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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55) Other parts of the body can be shown as part of a threat. Here a marmoset flashes the colors on her rear end; other group members know this a threat.

Notes: A pygmy marmoset, a South American monkey, viewed from the rear.
Scientific name: Cebuella pygmaea
Photo © by: Anne Savage

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56) Not all threats lead to fights. Most of the time the opponent will leave or show submission. Sometimes threats are just ignored. But fights do occur. Here an adult male chimpanzee attacks a female carrying an infant.

Notes: A fight between chimpanzees living in a zoo group. A female holding an infant, in the foreground, is attacked by an adult male behind her. She is screaming in submission.
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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57) Fights can have serious consequences. A long-tailed macaque shows injuries received in a fight. Animals can be badly hurt or even die as the result of fighting.

Notes: A long-tailed macaque, on the right, shows wounds on the shoulder.
This type of slash wound can be inflicted by adult males with their large canine teeth. In most primate species, animals are not killed or even seriously injured during fighting but a few may die later due to shock or infection.
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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58) Early observers of gorillas were impressed with their threats and displays. Here an adult male stands on two legs and beats his chest. This gained the gorilla the reputation as a very aggressive animal. Actually they are among the most peaceful of the primates.

Notes: Adult male silverback mountain gorilla stands bipedally while displaying in an African forest.
Gorillas use a cupped hand position to make the sound associated with chest beating.
Photo © by: Bill Weber & Amy Vedder

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59) The chimpanzee can be very aggressive. However, as with all primates, most aggression does not lead to serious consequences. Here a male shakes a branch as part of a display. If his opponent does not back down, a fight may occur.

Notes: A piloerected adult male chimpanzee shakes a branch while another animal watches.
While many conflicts between chimpanzees involve only noisy displays, chimpanzees are the one primate besides humans known to kill adult animals of the same species during a fight.
Photo © by: Frans de Waal

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60) Often fights are followed by reconciliation or making up by the opponents. Animals who continue to live in the same group may make an effort to repair the social relationship interrupted by their fight. This usually involves some form of friendly touch, such as grooming, or even just sitting next to each other while eating.

Notes: Two mountain gorillas feed next to each other in the forest.
Question: Do humans reconcile after fights? How?
Primates are most likely to reconcile after fights with animals who are socially important to them, such as relatives and close associates.
Question: Is this also the case in human primates?
Photo © by: Beth Kaplin

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61) Fights between groups also occur. Here members of two troops of green monkeys face off. Again, threats and displays are the most likely form of aggression.

Notes: Members of two groups of African green monkeys threaten each other.
Scientific name: Cercopithecus aethiops
Photo © by: Irwin Bernstein

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62) All the members of a group may get involved in an intertroop fight. These rhesus macaques threaten each other. In this species, females are often at the front when aggressive encounters with other groups occur.

Notes: Two large troops of rhesus monkeys threaten each other. Notice that several females carrying infants are in the front ranks.
rhesus macaques – REE-sus ma-KACKS
Photo © by: Joseph H. Manson & Susan Perry

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63) A fight between groups may involve members of both sexes. Males and females are at the front in this conflict between neighboring hamadryas baboon troops.

Notes: Hamadryas baboon groups come to blows at an African water hole. Adult males have long fur on their face and shoulders.
rhamadryas – hom-uh-DRY-us
Photo © by: Hans Kummer

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64) Sometimes intergroup fights involve males only.

Notes: Humans in a professional football match.
Photo © by: John Montenero

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65) Knowing all the members of its group is important to a social animal. New animals may migrate into a group from other areas — but most new members of a group are born there.

Notes: Title Slide: Social Behavior The Next Generation
Question: What do social animals need to know about the members of their group?
Artwork © by: Courtesy WRPRC AV Archive

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66) Everyone is interested in new babies. This adult male gorilla gently touches an infant.

Notes: Adult male lowland gorilla touches a young infant in a zoo enclosure.
Photo © by: Nancy Staley

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67) In most species, mothers do most of the child care. However in some species, fathers may carry infants most of the time. Here a tamarin male carries a youngster.

Notes: Adult male saddleback tamarin carries a youngster on his back.
Scientific name: Saguinus fuscicollis
tamarin — TAM-ah-rin
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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68) Juveniles also spend a lot of time with infants. These young gorillas take turns carrying the newest member of their social group.

Notes: A rare photo. Twin male gorillas born in a zoo carry a younger animal who had been adopted by an adult female in their group.
Photo © by: Nancy Staley

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69) An adult female chimpanzee plays with a young animal. The two animals are not related. This kind of behavior, a friendly interaction between an adult female and an unrelated youngster, is called aunting behavior.

Notes: An adult female chimpanzee wrestles with an unrelated youngster.
This is also called alloparenting. It occurs whenever someone other than the mother carries or defends a young animal. Juveniles, especially females, are most likely to do this, but other group members may also show protective behavior towards infants.
Photo © by: Roy Fontaine

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70) Grandparents may also have a special interest in the next generation. All primates must have the ability to adapt to changing social relationships. They begin learning social skills at birth and continue to practice them throughout life.

Notes: An older adult male human pushes a youngster in a stroller.
Photo © by: Laura L. McMahon

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71) Credits

Notes: Production credits
Artwork © by: Laura Claudio Marigo

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72) Credits

Notes: Funding credit
Artwork © by: Laura Claudio Marigo