Essentials of Physical Anthropology Study Set 2

Anthropology

Quiz 7 :
Primate Behavior

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Quiz 7 :
Primate Behavior

Behavioral ecology is the study of relationship between behavior, natural environment and physiological trait from an evolutionary point of view. Every individual within or outside a particular specie shows a varied range of behavior. The behavior ranges from affection to aggression among individual or communities. Non-primate animals such as cow, deer, rat, dog and several others show a complex range of behavior. Behavior of every individual species is influenced from its surrounding. If one notices any non-primate animals around him, he can easily find out certain animals respond to a particular stimuli in an aggressive way while some in non-aggressive way. It is not necessary that every animal responses to every stimuli. For example, dogs living in a particular region have demarcated areas. If any unfamiliar member of the specie enters their area, they show aggression and drove them off from their region. Dogs generally females, show parenting care towards their offspring. On the other hand behavior of dogs is also influenced from environment. This can be stated from the fact that those dogs which are nurtured by humans have totally different behavior from that of other dogs. They are comparatively calm in behavior. It is very hard to hypothesize the correct reason for a particular behavior shown by any animal. Though, one can predict reasons which might lead to a particular response by any animal. For example, animals tend to look at their prey very intensely. The possible hypothesis for such a behavior could be that, they want to examine their prey before they make any attack. This would reduce the amount of harm to them, if any. Every specie on earth first evolved in its wild form. With the course of time and human intellect they were domesticated by humans. A domestic animal shows certain behavioral differences when compared to its wild ancestor. It will be calmer in comparison to its wild ancestor and might show less aggressiveness in comparison to its wild ancestor. For example, a domestic animal might retreat from a fight out of fear while the fear factor in its wild ancestor might be low.

The study of the relationship between behavior, natural environment and physiological trait from an ecological and evolutionary point of view is known as behavioral ecology. It is based on the assumption that all biological components of ecological system evolved together. The study signifies that the behavior has evolved through the process of natural selection in the course of time. It was speculated that genes influence the behavior of an individual but this doesn't mean that a particular gene code for a particular behavior. Behavior of an individual is a result of combined effect of genes and natural environment on him. The behavior of an individual can always be modified through learning. Primates show behavioral responses largely based on learning than as an effect of gene. However, the limits and ability to learn from the environment vary among the members of same species and is greatly affected by genes. Since humans are primate, the study of behavioral ecology of close human relative, (which are also primates) will help in understanding the human behavior to a greater extent. The study may not provide with definitive answers but it will provide a framework for postulating hypothesis based on which further research can be done.

Infanticide refers to the killing of infants or the young ones. According to the study on hanuman langurs in India by Hrdy in 1977, males may increase their reproducing capability by killing infants fathered by other males. The study on hanuman langurs hypothesized that a male occasionally attacks another reproductive male of a group and droves him out of the group by defeating him. Following the victory the new male kills all the infants of the reproductive female from previous male, in order to make the female sexually available. Keeping the effects of infanticide aside, infanticide can be seen as a reproductive strategy for males. This is so because, when the female is producing milk and nursing the infant she is not sexually available. Further, as a result of infanticide, mother starts cycling again and is then sexually available and the male has not to wait for 2 to 3 years. The newspaper article applying this concept to the human males would not be appreciated. The thin line difference that separates human being from animal and make them social animal is the presence of intellect in humans. Infanticide may be seen as a reproductive strategy in males but only when its effect is kept aside. Even if one thinks scientifically, killing infants will be counterproductive when specie is considered as a whole. If infanticide is applied on humans, it would definitely be objected people. The decision cannot be made only keeping in mind about the reproducing capability of males. Moreover, the proposed theory fails to answer two important questions: 1. Why infanticidal males do not kill their own offspring? 2. Why the male that has killed an infant, fathers another infant with the victim mother?