The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Primate socioecology: where are we, what are we doing here, and where are we going?


Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

Saturday 1:00-1:15, 200ABC Add to calendar

Examining the core hypotheses and theories in the context of results of the last 40 years of primate research suggests that we require a new paradigm, a multi-nodal and dynamic systems approach, when asking about primate social organization. There is an ongoing discussion about the utility, structure and content of the underlying theoretical framework used by most primatologists. Diet, foraging, females, predation, and social structure have been the central themes with competition, friendship, infanticide, cooperation , and many other patterns having their moments in the spotlight. In 1994 Karen Strier challenged us to move beyond the “myth of the typical primate” and in 2008 Bernard Thierry called on us to recognize that most data do not conform to the expectations of basic socioecological predictions and suggested we drop the model. This elicited a stridently negative response from some primatologists/biological anthropologists and a hearty round of approval from others. In 2012 the publication of yet another overview (by Clutton-Brock and Janson) concluded that we do indeed need to explore a diversity of explanations for primate social organization, but that holding on to the central themes of socioecological theory might be a good idea. It is time to move to a more comprehensive and less reductive suite of assumptions about primate societies. Here I present a structural overview, a roadmap of sorts, to the past, present, and future of theory and practice in primatology.

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