Skills to Develop
At the end of this unit, students will be able to:
- understand the classification of living things
- define the parts of Skeletal Anatomy
- identify shared primate traits
- understand the taxonomy of the living primates
- summarize Primate Ecology&Behavior
- identify some of the living primates: Strepsirhines; New World Monkeys; Old World Monkeys; Apes
- describe Fossils & Primate Evolution
In the second unit, students will examine skeletal anatomy, taxonomy, modern non‐human primates, primate socioecology, and primate evolution.
- 2.1: Classification - Ordering the Natural World
- Classification systems are important to help scientists organize the massive diversity of the natural world. It’s a method that helps scientists from different countries talk about the natural world without confusion. Modern classification is considered a natural system representing real relationships between organisms. One thing to keep in mind when looking at classification systems is that it is basically a hypothesis about evolutionary relationships between species.
- 2.2: Primate Skeletal Anatomy
- The study of bones is called osteology. It is necessary to have a basic understanding of the skeletal anatomy since the data used in the study of primate and human evolution is based on fossilized bones. The information presented here focuses on the human skeleton. Human beings have an endoskeleton, which means that the skeletal structure is on the inside of the body. The endoskeleton grows along with the rest of the body.
- 2.3: Modern Primates
- Anthropology is the study of humans and the human condition. Humans are primates. We belong to the taxonomic order Primates (pronounced pry may tees). This order encompasses humans as well as what we call non-human primates. Non-human primates are our closest biological and evolutionary relatives. So, we study them in anthropology in order to learn more about ourselves.
- 2.4: Taxonomy of the Living Primates
- There are over 200 species and 600+ subspecies of primates living today. They vary in size from the tiny mouse lemur, weighing in at a whopping two ounces to the male silverback gorilla who can weigh up to 400 pounds. Some are vegetarian while others are omnivores. Many live in tropical areas, but there is at least one species that lives in a temperate region where it snows. Some live exclusively in trees and others live exclusively on the ground.
- 2.5: Primate Ecology
- Primate ecology is the study of the relationship between primates and their environment. Their environment includes not only the physical environment (e.g., trees, water, weather) but also the other animals in the environment, including other non-human primates and even humans.
- 2.6: Overviews of Living Primates (Strepsirhines)
- The following pages provide a very brief overview of some of the primates living today. It is not in any way a complete list of the hundreds of primate species. It is intended to give you a basic idea of the behaviors of some of the Strepsirhines and Haplorhines. If you would like to learn more about the primates mentioned on the overview pages, check out the reference section, which has links to sources with more details.
- 2.7: Overviews of Living Primates (Haplorhines)
- As you no doubt recall, Haplorhini means "simple nose."
- 2.8: More Haplorhines (Old World Monkeys)
- Old World monkeys are found in sub-Saharan Africa, southern Asia, and northern Japan. They live in a wide variety of habitats, from tropical jungle to seasonal snow and savannas. Some are arboreal and others terrestrial. There is variety of group structure, but most live in diurnal multi-male, multi-female groups.
- 2.9: Even more Haplorhines (The Apes)
- The Hominids are further divided into three subfamilies: Ponginae, Gorillinae, and Homininae, the latter of which is comprised of two tribes: Panini and Hominini. Which apes belong to each of the classifications will be discussed below.
- 2.10: Primate Evolution
- Now that you have an understanding of living primates' morphology and behavior, it is time to learn about the origins of primates. the study of primate evolution is multidisciplinary in nature and incorporates data and methods from paleontology, geology, anthropology, and archaeology to study the fossil record of primates.
Thuymbnail: Lémurien Propithèque de Verreaux. Image used with permission (CC BY 2.0; Jean-Louis Vandevivère).