Primates, including apes,
monkeys, and prosimians, make up our extended family tree. New and exciting
fossils have expanded our understanding of this beautiful group to which we
belong. Learn more about our closest cousins in the animal kingdom.
Simple learned behaviors.
Learned behaviors, even though they may have innate components or
underpinnings, allow an individual organism to adapt to changes in the
environment. Previous experiences modify learned behaviors; examples of simple
learned behaviors include habituation and imprinting.
living primates because by learning about species similar to us, we can learn
about ourselves. Considering the behavior, anatomy, social structure, and
genetic code of chimpanzees can reveal critical differences and similarities
between other primates and humans.
A commonly held view is
that primates are social because it protects them from predation or infanticide
within the species. Because of these pressures, they are forced to be social,
but due to competition for food resources, they must be competitive and
aggressive as well.
However, if culture is
defined more broadly as learned behavior patterns, then we must accept that at
least some non-human primate communities do have cultural knowledge that they
pass on to their children informally much the same way humans do.
Tool manufacture and use
are virtually non-existent among non-human primates. However, gorillas, common chimpanzees,
bonobos, orangutans, and capuchin monkeys are notable exceptions. Some of them use simple tools to help in
acquiring food and water. For instance,
chimpanzees have been observed stripping the leaves from twigs to make probes
to get termites and ants to eat. They
use similarly modified sticks to obtain honey from beehives in tree trunks and
from up to a meter underground in subterranean hives. Twigs are also used by them at times as
toothpicks. Crinkled leaves are employed
as sponges to get water from hollows in trees for drinking. Rocks and broken tree branches are used to
crack nuts and sometimes to throw at other chimpanzees to intimidate them. Stones were made use at times as projectiles
in hunting bush pigs and other small game.
However, chimpanzee coordination in throwing is very poor, so rocks and
pieces of wood are inefficient weapons for them. Their natural excitability also prevents them
from being stealthy hunters. It is
essential to keep in mind that all of these straightforward tools use by
chimpanzees must be taught to younglings by their parents and other
adults. They are not genetically
inherited patterns of behavior. As a
result, different communities invent different tools. It would not be surprising to discover other
examples of simple tool use by non-human primates as the scientist continue their observed for long periods of time.