Primates

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A Period Anthropology
26 Feb. 2013
Primates
The fascinating thing about primates is that they are closer to humans than any other order that is around today. The line separating human being from primate grows increasingly smaller each day, as these animals are becoming more efficient and complex. Human beings typically believe that they are completely above primates, but the fact of the matter is that our similarities can nearly outweigh our differences. The primate order is actually made up of a massive array of different species. There are lemurs, tarsiers, monkeys, and apes. Monkeys include old world monkeys and new world monkeys. Apes are the closest to human beings, and they include gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees (Kottak). Primates are a unique species, and differ from humans in a variety of ways. There are several obvious differences separating us: humans have different physical characteristics. Most of these physical differences are due to human’s bipedalism. Many of the differences between our bodies are related to the evolution of this method of walking. Unlike apes, our arms are shorter, and are generally considered weak when compared to our legs. Our feet no longer grasp. Instead of having a big toe, primates have a sort of thumb on their feet. Our feet evolved so that the big toe moved into line with the other toes, and our feet also developed an arch (“Humans vs. Primates”). Humans have a more erect spinal cord and pelvis, and our pelvis is more bowl-shaped. Primates also have fur, while we are hairless and covered in sweat glands to keep cool while running. Primates are also unable to produce speech. However, their brain is very developed, and they are surprisingly intelligent. The great apes are said to have the mental equivalent of a preschool-aged child, so although they cannot actually talk, some have been known to learn sign language (O’Neil). Another noteworthy difference between primates and humans is that humans are more cooperative and willing to share with each other. In the very early days, when humans were hunters and gatherers, clans would typically share the food that they got with the rest of their social group. Primates, on the other hand, usually find food individually, excluding chimps, who sometimes share meat. In addition, humans and primates differ in their relationships. Humans have instituted marriage, a lifelong bond with a mate, while bonds between primate mates are only temporary. Humans also keep lifelong ties with their children, which primates do not. Furthermore, primates tend to only mate when the female is ovulating. Human females do not have a visible cycle, so they reproduce by mating throughout the year (Kottak). When I went to the zoo, I saw three main kinds of primates: gorillas, chimps, and monkeys. The gorillas were first. They seemed to be less active and less social. They had just eaten lunch and were lying around resting. I noticed that the gorillas would walk on four legs, and they used their knuckles on their hands to walk. They have huge teeth and a very thick brow bone. We saw all males, so they had silver backs. They have a huge upper body, with arms twice as long as their legs. They did not have a tail, and both their hands and feet resembled human hands. In fact, one of them clasped his feet together while he slept. I also noticed how human-like their ears were. Unfortunately, since the gorillas were so tired, there was not much socialization at all, but I did notice some hierarchy between some of them. The alpha male approached another male who was lying on a hammock. The gorilla lying down quickly ran away as if he was fleeing from a predator. Then, he got into a defensive position with his arms crossed. We also got to see one gorilla manipulate his environment for comfort. He moved some hay and then laid down on it. Then, we saw the chimps. They had a less prominent brow ridge and were smaller. The chimps also had arms that were twice as...
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