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Primate Behavior - Classroom Activities

1) Humans use all the senses in communication as do other primates. What examples can you think of human communication using sight, sound, touch and scent or taste? Can you find examples of both friendly and unfriendly communication for each sense?

2) Develop an ethogram for humans. Scientist use an ethogram, a very exact description of each behavior they expect to see when observing animal behavior. Below are some examples from an ethogram used to study rhesus monkeys:

Approach - approach to within easy arm's reach of at least one partner

Retreat - a distance increase in response to an approach of at least two steps; must occur within 10 seconds of initial approach

Grooming - contact with the fur of a partner, including combing through the fur with one or both hands.

Make a list of behaviors you would expect to see in a school lunch room, and a write a description for each one. Your description should allow another observer to score that behavior in the same way you do.

3) Here is a list of questions a scientist might ask about a species of social animals. Can you answer these questions for any species (human, domestic animal, wild animal)? If you don't know the answers, how could you find out?

Do animals live alone or in groups larger than a mother and offspring?

If they live in groups:

  • are the groups seasonal or year round associations?
  • are all members of a group related to each other, or are some non-kin (migrants)?
  • how many breeding females in a group?
  • how many breeding males?
  • do some animals leave their natal group (where they were born)? If so, who leaves and who stays (sex and age of animals that leave)?
  • is there a dominance hierarchy or other group structure?
  • how do the animals in the group communicate with each other?