How Effective Are Primate Models in Helping Us to Understand Early Hominid Behavior

Topic Summary

This paper will explore the relationship that exists between the current human being and other primates; what the non-human primates have to do with the evolution theory, as well as the general characteristics of primates. The paper will also address the classification of primates, the evidence that suggests that people are just another type of the great ape. The study will show the effectiveness of using the models of primate to explore the evolution of humankind. It exploits different primate models which have been used to reconstruct the early behavior of humans. Some of them base on the proposition that the significant features of behavior such as eating of seeds, monogamous mating or hunting led to the evolutionary separation of humans and apes. Some models say that particular species of primates such as chimpanzee or baboons, represent behavior of the early ancestors of people the best way.


What are the similarities between the primate and human beings? What constitutes the primate models? What are the factors that place primates to the center of study of the people’s behavior? Is there any relationship that exists between the hominids and the primate models?

A primate is a mammal that has a placenta. It typically has feet/legs and hands which are flexible. All primates usually have opposable first digits, the brains, and very good eyesight that are highly developed, especially in the higher apes (Kappeler & van Schaik 37). A model in hand is the preliminary work, or a construction that tends to serve as a plan from which the final product will be made from. A primate model is, therefore, a schematic representation or description of the primates that accounts for the properties of hominids and is used to study their characteristics and traits. Primates exist in more than 150 species (Silk 3244). However, the chimpanzee and the baboon are the most common. The extant species of the hominid are the chimpanzees. They split from the humans’ family at around six million years ago. They are the closest currently living relatives of people. In 1973, the research conducted by Mary-Clair King revealed that the DNAs of the human beings and the chimpanzees are 99% identical (Silk 3247). The study however, has modified the similarities between the two to 94%. The contrast between humans and chimpanzees happen in the noncoding DNA. Human being has thus been referred to as the third chimpanzee. Several human fossils have been found. However, the chimpanzees’ fossils were not described until the year 2005 (Silk 3251). The difference exists between the petrifactions of the chimpanzees of the East Africa and those of the West and the Central Africa. Nevertheless, the fossils of chimpanzees in Kenya were reported to indicate that both the members of the human beings and Homo-Pan clade, were present in the Rift Valley of East Africa during the Middle Pleistocene.

The primate models have been proved to be very useful in helping people understand the behaviors of early hominids. However, no single primate proves to be an excellent model. Instead, it has to be eclectic. The ancestral behaviors can only be derived through the comparison of behavior of all the living ape and human species. The Ugalla chimpanzees have similar cranial capacity, overall biology and body size similar to the Hominids that lived in the environment that is analogous to that of the early Australopithecus and Ardipithecus (Haviland, et el 49). In order for them to be useful models, the insights gained from their observation should be integrated together with the information extracted from the investigation of the fossils. The records should be made in the manner in keeping with the theory of ecological behavior before drawing the provisional conclusions about the early Hominids.

In order to understand the behavior of the chimpanzees and how they interact with the environment better, the diet of every feces composition should be recorded. The names of the seeds and their quantities, including the animal matter are also used. The places from where the chimpanzees eat from helps us understand the heterogeneous habitat.

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To provide answers to the research question in this paper and to get better understanding of the primate models, I centered my research on peer reviewed articles from a couple of databases that particularly addressed my research questions.

The first database was the online work of Warren G. Kenzey, Evolution of Human Behavior: Primate Models. I narrowed my research to the types of primates and the behaviors. The article had all the required information that gave the better understanding of primate models and their relationship to the hominids. The material had accumulated its information from the research carried out in the most parts of Africa, mostly the West and Central Africa. It also derived its information from the Rift valley of Kenya, basing its research on chimpanzees.

The second database was from the Google scholars. I successfully obtained two peer reviewed articles. The first one covered the behaviors of the early primates. It is based on the foods they ate, the tools they used as well as their places of habitat. The authors of the article had done a thorough analysis of the composition of the foods that these early primates consumed. They used the research records carried on the feces of the chimpanzees. The second article was about the relationship that exists among these hominids. The authors exhibited a lot of similarities between the human beings and other primates. The articles discussed in detail the comparisons in the areas of taxonomy and genetics, childhood, emotions and intelligence. The authors also examined the childhood, reproduction, and communications. Finally, the article discussed the significant differences. All these showed the effectiveness of the primate models for understanding the behavior of the hominids.


In the course of the process of my research, I realized that the used primate model was that of the chimpanzees. In fact, they are the ones that possess most of the similarities with the human beings. The behaviors of chimpanzees are closely related to those of the hominids.

In the category of the genetics and taxonomy, the research revealed that humans and the chimpanzees belong to the animal order called primates. The primate models have several features that characterize their behavior (Fedurek & Slocombe 157). They have got large brains. These large brains of the primates are relative to their body sizes. The primate models also have a depth perception. This category involves the high reliance on the stereoscopic vision. Most of the primate models have flexible joints and opposable thumbs, with less reliance on the smell.

Secondly, all the primate models reproduce. Most of them become sexually mature at the age of between 10 and 13 years (Elton 118). The period of gestation is usually approximated at eight months. The female chimpanzees often reproduce after a period of about five years. The primate models are sexually attracted to the older males, up to the age of about 10 to 11 years (Elton 118). This is usually the adolescent period, until the female can conceive.

Consequently, the primate models have an extended childhood. Most of them suckle and sleep with their mothers during the night, up to the age of about five years. They form a connection with the parents and the siblings during this period. The relationship developed here is likely to last throughout life (Belin 2031). It becomes a challenge for the child to survive in case if the mother demises. They usually show the signs of depression and a decline in their playing and feeding activities. Young primates watch, learn, imitate and practice the behavior of older ones.

The intelligence of the primate models is startlingly similar. The chimpanzees usually show sophisticated cooperation during hunting. They use unique tools for different purposes. They show the complex behavior of making devices. The primates have a concept of self and are capable of abstraction as well as reasoned thought. The chimpanzees can recognize themselves in the mirrors, just like human beings, but unlike most of other animals (Belin 2078).

Primates have extraordinary nonverbal communication similarities. They pat on the backs, embrace and even kiss. They hold hands, swagger, and tickle and hurl rocks as well. Emotionally, the primate models exhibit such emotions as despair, joy, sadness and fear (Parr 1670). The feelings can be particularly evidenced in chimpanzees because their facial expressions and musculature are like those of humans.

The significant differences between the primate models and hominids, however, are that people are the only ones with spoken language. Other primate models lack the vocal tract in their system. People can walk upright, and cook their food. They also have larger brains and reduced jaws than other primates (Parr 1683).

The future research on primates continues to grow. The new tools are used to enhance the tractability. The hotly contested issue remains that of using the primate models in the medical research. Some of the young scientists usually quit or become intimidated in conducting primate research. The reconstructions that base on the model thus require a system that can be used to examine the kinds of behavior observed in the living species. These behaviors are more likely to have been observed in the hominid ancestors, long time ago. The field information should also provide a ground suitable for testing the theories which are designed to elaborate the distribution of the social behavior of the distinct species.

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