Primate Sociality

Primatology is a branch of zoology that deals with the study of primates. Thus, scientific study of these animals can be conducted in either zoos, laboratories, and their natural habitats. According to primatologists, primates have a close relationship with people; hence the significance of the study to explain the origin of man (Robbins, 2015). Furthermore, the behavior relationships of primates show a connection with human behaviors. Therefore, primatologists are concerned with the study of the behavior of primates to understand the actions of people.

The case study involved the observation of the primates, specifically gorillas and monkeys. The purpose of the report is to identify and appreciate the similarities and differences between the behaviors of primate groups and those of human beings. The objectives of the report were achieved by the study of the major characteristics of primate groups. The features include the general behaviors of these groups, communication, and locomotion. Evidence indicates that the possession of unique features helps to distinguish primates from other animals that are less intelligent, thereby supporting the suggestion concerning their close relation with human beings.

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Date, Location, and Conditions

The observations were carried out on October 24 between two and five in the afternoon. The first two hours were only concentrated on the observation of animals, and the third hour was spent organizing the gathered information. The location of the study was based in the San Diego Zoo. The study involved the observation of two species, G. Gorilla of the Gorilla genus and the bonobo, whose scientific name is Pan paniscus. The species chosen for the observation had distinguishing features, which enabled the identification of their sexes. In the exhibit, there were two males, three females, and a baby. During observation, one was able to identify the males from the females. The males were huge with muscular bodies, unlike the females. They had a silverback, thus facilitation their identification. The huge muscles of the male gorillas made it a little difficult to compare them with humans.

However, a gorilla’s size can be compared to that of body builders (Robbins, 2015). On the other hand, the females were of a smaller size, thus compared with women. The method of observation involved two approaches. The first approach, a continuous follow-up, focused on the study of an individual species to determine its behavior and interaction with other members of the group. In the second approach, sample groups were scanned at specific intervals, and the results were recorded. The actions and interactions of the primate groups were studied at intervals of five minutes within a span of 60 minutes.

The Natural Habitat and Geographical Distribution of the Primates (Gorillas and Bonobos)

Bonobos occupy the forested and savannah grasslands. They also inhabit woodland habitats. They live in family groups that are dominated by females. In their wild habitats, male bonobos are separated from their family groups during the adolescence stage. They also make adaptations referred as fission and fusion responding to factors such as the availability of food and situations regarding social interactions in their groups (Wolfheim, 1983). They are omnivorous, and their diet mainly comprises of fruits and seeds. It should be mentioned that bonobos inhabit the Equatorial Basin of Central Africa. The region is located in the South of the Congo River that extends from the areas of the Lualaba River to the southern Sankuru Rivers (Wolfheim, 1983). The major geographical locations of the bonobos include the northern block, consisting of Maringa, Lupori, and Wamba. The eastern block is made of the regions like Lualaba and Lomami, while the southern block includes Solanga.

Gorillas inhabit tropical forests, and their habitats have a little temperature variance of about 23 degrees. They also occupy sub-tropical forests, composed of deciduous forests. These deciduous forests are characterized by plants that shed leaves at particular times of the year. Furthermore, gorillas inhabit lowland tropical forests made up of shrubs, succulent plants, and trees. The lowland forests usually experience long dry seasons. Various species of gorillas occupy different geographical regions. For instance, the western lowland gorillas occupy the tropical forests of West African countries like Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. Additionally, they inhabit the tropical forests of Congo, the Central African Republic, and Gabon. On the other hand, the eastern lowland Gorilla occupy the tropical forest located in Eastern Zaire (Wolfheim, 1983). The mountain gorillas live in the tropical forests of Uganda, Zaire, and Rwanda. Finally, the Cross River gorillas are found in the regions of Cameroon and Nigeria.

The investigation was concerned with the observation of the behavior patterns of primates. The observed behaviors among the animals included communication, mother and infant relationships, dominance, and aggressive behavior. Other observed behaviors comprised sexual behaviors, play actions, and male and female relationships.

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Primates used body postures such as gestures and vocalization for communication. These gestures were observed to indicate emotions such as excitement, anger, fear, and confidence (Doran & Mcneilage, 1998). For instance, gorillas were seen to yawn, exposing their teeth, which indicated a threat. Additionally, the eye contact served to communicate threat, whereas the mounting behavior was observed to diffuse aggressive situations. These primates also used vocalization to communicate. For instance, they made sounds when they noticed some form of impending danger or another primate group approaching.

The Dominance Behavior

Among the group of animals studied, it was noted that primates tended to create dominance hierarchies. In the hierarchies, the primates of the higher rank displaced those of the lower ranks from essential resources such as food, mates, and space. According to the observations, the higher-ranked animals tended to have greater success in reproduction since they enjoyed the advantage of access to greater resources and more mating partners (Doran & Mcneilage,1998). The hierarchy was observed to be dependent on the factors such as sex and age. Furthermore, it was learned through agonistic and affiliative interactions. More to say, the play interactions of primates played a role in the formation of hierarchies.

Mother and Infant Behaviors

The mother and the infant exhibited close relationship. The infant always walked with its mother who offered protection in dangerous situations. Despite the infant being reared by the zoo keepers, it was observed that its maternal bond with the mother still existed. For instance, the mother carried the infant on its back as she walked around. Whenever, she came across edible food varieties, she always offered the infant the opportunity of eating first. During this period of infancy, it was noted that the females joined, thus forming matrilines, which promoted their dominance over an alpha male.

Aggressive Behavior

The primates, such as gorillas and chimps, exhibited aggressive behavior. For instance, chimps were observed to gang up to attack a neighboring group of chimps (Doran & Mcneilage, 1998). At the same time, Gorillas stood bipedally, banging their chests with the aim of attacking other groups or animals from other species. In another instance, one male chimp was observed to charge bipedally after a subordinate, which was the expression of aggressive dominance behavior.

Play Behavior

The observed primates were seen to jump from one tree branch to another and swing in excitement. They ran around their habitat, engaging in feeble fights. The infant was observed to play with its mother in an attempt to swing, using the flexible tree branches and extended roots. The infant also played with other adult males. At the same time, adult males exhibited play behavior by engaging in feeble fights and scrambles.

Furthermore, the primate groups stood and walked bipedally while making funny sounds as they charged their subordinates. This play behavior was identified to indicate close interactions and close relationships.

The behaviors exhibited by the primates under observation had a close relation with those of humans. For instance, the above references include play behaviors, communications, relationship, and dominance behaviors. Humans communicate using verbal and non-verbal approaches that are also exhibited by the primates. Moreover, human females show maternal bonding relationships that are also displayed by primates. However, the observed behaviors are less primitive as compared to human actions. During the case study, people tried to engage the primates in a play relationship. For instance, they gave them food and tried to scare them to observe their reactions (Doran & Mcneilage, 1998).

The zoo environment may interfere with the relationship of the infant and mother as the baby could be separated until it reaches certain age, which affects the maternal bond. Furthermore, the caged environment can limit the behavior activities of animals since they are controlled. However, the zoo environment provides activities such as language learning, which improves the intelligence of animals.


The behavior patterns of primates differ slightly from the human behavior due to the different level of advancement. However, they show a close relationship with human behaviors from the modes of communication to the interaction patterns. Thus, primates adapt their adapt according to their environments. In a caged environment such, as the zoo, the animals are a little aggressive as compared to the wild primates. Their behavior patterns have adapted due to their interaction with humans. Therefore, primatologists use the results gathered from the study of primates to understand the actions of humans. Since primates are the immediate ancestors of humans, they serve as the essential subjects for research activities.

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