201-08s-09-LivingPrimates - Introduction to Biological...

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Introduction to Biological Anthropology: Notes 9 Why anthropologists study non-human primates, and an introduction to our relatives Copyright Bruce Owen 2008 - Why study non-human primates? - They give us clues about human nature and the nature of the species that led to humans - For two kinds of reasons: - First, they are our closest relatives, so studying them should give us insight into what our kind of animal is about - more so than studying more distant relatives, like lab rats - because we have relatively recent common ancestors, we should have more traits in common with other primates than with non-primates - there has been less time for us and them to evolve differences - this is "reasoning by homology" - assuming that some similarities are due to our having recently split from the same ancestors - remember that a homologous trait in two different species is one that is similar in the two species because - the trait was present in the common ancestor - and both species have inherited it from the common ancestor - so if we learn something about a trait in other primates, it may also apply to us - because both humans and the other species may have inherited the same trait from a common ancestor - reasoning by homology can also tell us about our extinct ancestors - say we find a trait that is shared by several descendents or relatives of an extinct species - then it is probably homologous, or "inherited" from an ancestor that the extinct species also shared - so the extinct species probably (although not positively) also had the trait - since it was also descended from the same common ancestor - this can give us an idea of behavioral traits and soft tissue traits of extinct species, even though we cannot see them in the fossil record - Second, even aside from the phylogenetic relationship, many primates are relatively similar to us and to our ancestors, or at least more similar than are other kinds of animals - this is "reasoning by analogy" - they have similar basic design, and live in similar environments - so presumably the living non-human primates have been exposed to selection pressures that were similar to those our ancestors adapted to - non-human primates are more "analogous" to us and our ancestors than are most other species, in most ways - so they provide reasonable models for how those selection pressures might have affected early humans and our earlier ancestors
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Intro to Biological Anthro S 2008 / Owen: Primates… p. 2 - that is, what works for other primates might have worked for us and our ancestors, too - What do non-human primates have to do with the evolutionary theory we have been looking at so far? - evolutionary theory will help us understand many features of non-human primate biology and behavior - evolutionary theory will help us to use information from the non-human primates correctly when we - use non-human primate analogies to understand human characteristics - try to reconstruct our own phylogeny - try to explain the sequence of changes that led from our early ancestors to modern humans
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This note was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course ANTH 201 taught by Professor Owen during the Spring '08 term at Sonoma.

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201-08s-09-LivingPrimates - Introduction to Biological...

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