Primate Observation

(3 parts to this and 4 pages total**)

One of the ways that Physical Anthropologists approach the understanding of ancient and modern human social and cultural behavior is through the study of our closest living relatives: the Primates. In this assignment, you will become a Primatologist. Your assignment is to observe at least two different Primate species at a zoo and compare their behaviors to each other and then discuss how this might help us to understand human behavior. *If you cannot go to a zoo to observe the Primates, you may choose to do an alternative written research paper, upon approval by the instructor.

You will be required to observe two different primate species for a two-hour period (you will record each primate for one hour). You may perform your observations at any zoo you would like – the closest zoos are the San Francisco Zoo and the Oakland Zoo, however you may be able to visit Happy Hollow in San Jose (information on each of these zoos is located on the back of this sheet). Choose any two primate species: the S.F. and Oakland Zoos have the widest array of primates, including chimpanzees and Gorillas. I would recommend choosing two very different species for your observations. I also strongly recommend contacting the zoo ahead of time and finding out when they feed the primates and/or when the primates tend to be most active –this will decrease your chances of sitting in front of a primate enclosure watching your subjects sleep for an hour!

(THIS IS ONE PAGE ** typed)
Part I: The Observation — Field notes and field-charts (20 points
Visit a zoo and systematically record and describe the behavior of two different primate species. You should keep detailed field notes for this part of the assignment. Observe each primate species for at least one hour and describe what the animals do along with the exact time each behavior occurs. If there is more than one individual in the enclosure, you should choose one animal and specifically track that individual’s behavior. In order to systematize your data collection, set up a field chart that you will submit.
You will have a chart for each primate observed. It can be a rough chart that looks like the one below. You need to have the FIELD CHART, it can be messy but it needs to have more than 25 observations. You will be required to turn in your field notes and chart with your final paper, so be sure to take careful notes during your observations and keep them afterwards!!! Be creative with your observations – if you want to take pictures or draw maps, diagrams, etc., these may also be handed in with your final paper.

Observation Chart
Primate Species Name/ID #
Behavioral (B) or Physical (P) Trait Observed
Why is it being selected for? What is the Natural Selection process?
Howler Monkey – 1
Pooped in its hand and threw it at an annoying kid making noises at it
B : Feces throwing
Driving others away, show dominance, protect resources and territory
Howler Monkey – 1
A scream so loud it sounded like a lion, howls like its name, probably why its called that
P: Voice box makes very loud sounds.
Those that communicate longer distances get more mates
Howler Monkey – 1
A loud scream
B: Loud vocalization when hears other noises.
Maybe a dominance thing or territoriality. I will look it up. Do the females and males both do it? Or only males?

Things are happening fast, so there will be no way to observe and note everything, however if you note 30 or so elements, then you will have a good data sat to use for the paper. Make a note of all behaviors you observe, including the individual’s range of movement within the enclosure, the nature of any interactions with other individuals, reactions to any external stimuli like loud noises or the antics of other zoo visitors, food procurement behavior, etc. In particular, you should watch for actions related to the following categories of behavior: food acquisition and sharing practices, mating strategies (i.e. monogamy, polygamy, etc.), social organization (i.e. large vs. small groups) and intelligence.

Then in your notes write about the effects of captivity. Make a chart. What is the behavior that you see that captivity creates? Or changes from the wild? Note 5 things that captivity does to each of the animals. See example below.

Captivity Chart
Primate Species Name/ID #
Why is it taking place?
Gorilla – Silverback – 1
Sat in one place the entire hour, never moved, stared into space
Captivity has created severe depression in the animal, completely affecting his behavior.

Part II: The Formal Chart (40 points
You are required to prepare formal charts using a computer program such as Excel or Word. Set up the observation chart exactly as you see above. Do this first before you write the rest of the paper. Each of the categories should be present in the chart. Each animal should have more than 25 observations listed. Set up the captivity chart exactly as you see above, there should also be both primates on this chart.

This is the most important section of the paper. The most important column is the last column, where you state WHY you think behaviors are taking place in terms of natural selection.

Part III: The Final Report/essay Using Chart Data (40 points) – 2 pages **
After making your observations at the zoo, read back through your notes and chart: do any behavioral patterns emerge? You do this by stepping back from the notes you have taken to assess the data as an anthropologists would. Did some behaviors occur over and over? What behaviors seem to be most common and what sort of functions are they associated with (i.e. food acquisition, competition for mates, alliance building, etc.)? You have 2 animals with many behavioral and physical characteristics noted. What you need to do now is look for patterns in the data. What leaps out as significant to you in terms of comparing these two animals?


Section 1: Introduction and Primate Descriptions (10 points)
For Section 1 of the body of your paper, describe very clearly what this paper will be doing, state the nature of your research, and finally, summarize what the research results were. In the next short paragraph write up brief descriptions of the primates you observed at the zoo, based on your fieldnotes. Be sure to describe any interesting behaviors observed and your general impressions of the primates. This section should also include the specific location of your primate observations (Zoo name and location), the date and time of your observations, the common name of the Primates you observed (i.e. chimpanzee, lemur, etc.), and the scientific name of the species (Genus & species name). Use your own observations to describe the primates. DO NOT USE ONLINE SOURCE DESCRIPTIONS HERE.

Section 2: Primate Comparison (10 points)
Compare and contrast the behaviors of the two primates you observed. How do the behaviors of the primates differ from one another? How are they similar? In terms of evolution and natural selection, why might these differences and similarities exist? For each behavior or physical trait – you MUST interpret WHY they are the same or different. Keep referring to your chart. In particular, try to address different categories of behavior outlined above: food acquisition and sharing, mating strategies, social organization, intelligence. Try to determine if they share or don’t share ANCESTRAL TRAITS and if they do or don’t WHY.

Section 3: The Effects of Captivity (10 points)
For Section 3 of the body of your paper, reflect on the Captivity Chart that you made. What are the effects that being in captivity and on display in a zoo might have on the behaviors of the primates you observed. How “natural” do you think the behaviors you observed are? Would the primates act differently if observed in the wild? If so, can you explain why?

Section 4: Insights into Human Behavior (10 points)
Finally, for Section 4 of the body of your paper, consider what kind of insights the primate behaviors you observed might give us into human behavior, either ancient or modern. Can you identify similar patterns of behavior in humans? If so, do you think that these patterns may come about for similar reasons as in the Primates, or for different reasons? What, ultimately, can studying Primates really tell us about humans, based especially on your work as a Primatologist? Explain WHY in terms of your DATA they seem to be similar or different from each other and from Homo sapiens. Be thinking the whole time about TRAITS and DATA. Could each species share traits with humans and not with each other?

Section 5: Quick Conclusion
Wrap it up – summarize everything from the other sections. Lastly, avoid being WISHY WASHY, no professor wants to read how you were ‘transformed by this experience’ or that it was ‘really interesting’. These statements do not make it a science paper.

Paper Format and Structure
Your final paper should be written in formal academic style, with a clear introduction stating the thesis and purpose of the paper, a body broken down into the four sections outlined above in Part II, and a strong conclusion summarizing your thesis and the results of your observations.