Recently, for my bioanthropology class I was required to visit the local zoo, observe five different types of primates, and type up a report of my observations while answering a few questions the professors gave us.
Being me, I can’t take any assignment involving monkeys eating their own shit seriously. Or any assignment that requires me to observe a white trash family on vacation day (read: “unemployment check came in” day.)
Behold. Real, live answers on my report that I am actually going to hand in to my professor tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.:
Question: Did you observe any behavioral differences among the primate groups? What are they?
The new world monkeys (capuchins) and the prosimians (lemurs) were much more animated and interacted with each other and zoo visitors, while the great apes (orangutans) and lesser apes (white-cheeked gibbons) were not very active – as much as I love a monkey staring at me waiting for ME to do something cool for five minutes, I left disappointed.
Question: Did you see evidence for a dominance hierarchy among any of the primates? Or, conversely, did the primates lack an apparent dominance hierarchy? Which ones and what was the nature of the hierarchy?
The capuchins and human beings had a clearly established hierarchy, namely parental and child roles. The capuchin mother carried her offspring on her back, while the human mother initiated physical negative reinforcement to her offspring (namely, she backhanded the brat.)
The gibbons also had an established dominance hierarchy, in that a female appeared to mount a male, which surprised me, unless I’m just very unskilled at discerning gibbon gender, a complete possibility.
Question: What observation(s) surprised you during your field experience?
I was considerably surprised at how absolutely boring orangutans are. I actually began to reconsider my childhood habit of throwing things at them in the cage. Had I provoked threatening behavior from the orangutans, I would have a much more interesting report to write, rather than having to resort to humor to engage the reader.
I was also amazed at how quickly a capuchin monkey can consume its own feces.
… maybe I’ll get an A, maybe not. The fact of the matter is, I got to see a monkey eat its own poop and a mother beat her child. Wins all around.