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Concept: Primatology


Discussions about the underrepresentation of women in science are challenged by uncertainty over the relative effects of the lack of assertiveness by women and the lack of recognition of them by male colleagues because the two are often indistinguishable. They can be distinguished at professional meetings, however, by comparing symposia, which are largely by invitation, and posters and other talks, which are largely participant-initiated. Analysis of 21 annual meetings of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists reveals that within the subfield of primatology, women give more posters than talks, whereas men give more talks than posters. But most strikingly, among symposia the proportion of female participants differs dramatically by the gender of the organizer. Male-organized symposia have half the number of female first authors (29%) that symposia organized by women (64%) or by both men and women (58%) have, and half that of female participation in talks and posters (65%). We found a similar gender bias from men in symposia from the past 12 annual meetings of the American Society of Primatologists. The bias is surprising given that women are the numerical majority in primatology and have achieved substantial peer recognition in this discipline.

Concepts: Male, Female, Gender, Sex, Anthropology, Woman, Primatology


Recently, detection dogs have been utilized to collect fecal samples from cryptic and rare mammals. Despite the great promise of this technique for conservation biology, its broader application has been limited by the high cost (tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) and logistical challenges of employing a scat-detection dog team while conducting international, collaborative research. Through an international collaboration of primatologists and the Chinese Ministry of Public Security, we trained and used a detection dog to find scat from three species of unhabituated, free-ranging primates, for less than $3,000. We collected 137 non-human primate fecal samples that we confirmed by sequencing taxonomically informative genetic markers. Our detection dog team had a 92% accuracy rate, significantly outperforming our human-only team. Our results demonstrate that detection dogs can locate fecal samples from unhabituated primates with variable diets, locomotion, and grouping patterns, despite challenging field conditions. We provide a model for in-country training, while also building local capacity for conservation and genetic monitoring. Unlike previous efforts, our approach will allow for the wide adoption of scat-detection dogs in international conservation biology.

Concepts: Human, Evolution, Species, Ecology, Mammal, Primate, Primatology, Dog


Studying animal cognition in a social setting is associated with practical and statistical challenges. However, conducting cognitive research without disturbing species-typical social groups can increase ecological validity, minimize distress, and improve animal welfare. Here, we review the existing literature on cognitive research run with primates in a social setting in order to determine how widespread such testing is and highlight approaches that may guide future research planning.

Concepts: Cognitive psychology, Cognition, Fiction, Mammal, Mind, Primate, Primatology, Systema Naturae


The present study was performed to investigate the associations between eye-blink behaviors and various other factors in primates. We video-recorded 141 individuals across 71 primate species and analyzed the blink rate, blink duration, and “isolated” blink ratio (i.e., blinks without eye or head movement) in relation to activity rhythms, habitat types, group size, and body size factors. The results showed close relationships between three types of eye-blink measures and body size factors. All of these measures increased as a function of body weight. In addition, diurnal primates showed more blinks than nocturnal species even after controlling for body size factors. The most important findings were the relationships between eye-blink behaviors and social factors, e.g., group size. Among diurnal primates, only the blink rate was significantly correlated even after controlling for body size factors. The blink rate increased as the group size increased. Enlargement of the neocortex is strongly correlated with group size in primate species and considered strong evidence for the social brain hypothesis. Our results suggest that spontaneous eye-blinks have acquired a role in social communication, similar to grooming, to adapt to complex social living during primate evolution.

Concepts: Time, Human, Evolution, Mammal, Primate, Primatology, Human evolution, Neocortex


The well-being of non-human primates in captivity is of joint concern to scientists, veterinarians, colony managers, caretakers, and researchers working with non-human primates in biomedical research. With increased regulatory, accreditation, and research focus on optimizing the use of social housing for laboratory primates, as well as the advent of techniques to assess indices of chronic stress and related measures of well-being, there is no better time to present the most current advances in the field of non-human primate behavioral management. The collective body of research presented here was inspired in part by a 2014 symposium entitled, “Chronic Hormones and Demographic Variables: Center-Wide Studies on Non-Human Primate Well-Being” held at the American Society of Primatologists' 37th Annual Meeting in Decatur, GA. By aiming to target readership with scientific and/or management oversight of captive primate behavioral management programs, this special issue provides badly-needed guidance for implementing social housing programs in a research environment and leverages collaboration across multiple facilities to address key components of behavioral management, explore refinements in how well-being can be measured, and identify the interrelationships between varying indices. Am. J. Primatol. ¬© 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Human, Primate, Primatology


The shared evolutionary histories and anatomical similarities between humans and non-human primates create dynamic interconnections between these alloprimates. In this foreword to Folia Primatologica’s special issue on “Ethnographic Approaches in Primatology,” we review the ethnographic method and existing literature at the intersection of primatology and ethnography. We summarize, compare and contrast the 5 contributions to this special issue to highlight why the human-non-human primate interface is a compelling area to investigate via ethnographic approaches and to encourage increased incorporation of ethnography into the discipline of primatology. Ethnography is a valuable and increasingly popular tool with its use no longer limited to anthropological practitioners investigating traditional, non-Western peoples. Scholars from many disciplines now use ethnographic methods to investigate all members of our globalised world, including non-humans. As our closest living relatives, non-human primates (hereafter “primates”) are compelling subjects and thus appear in a range of contexts within ethnographic investigations. The goal of this special issue is to highlight the trajectory of research at the intersection of primatology and ethnography and to illustrate the importance of ethnographic methods for the advancement of primatology as a discipline.

Concepts: Human, Mammal, Primate, Hominidae, Anthropology, Primatology, Human evolution, Ethnography


China supports the richest non-human primate diversity in the northern hemisphere, providing an excellent opportunity for Chinese primatologists to take a leading role in advancing the study of primatology. Primatology in China began to flourish after 1979. To date, Chinese primatologists have published more than 1000 papers in journals indexed by the Chinese Science Citation Database and the Web of Science Core Collection, and universities and academic institutions have trained 107 PhD students and 370 Masters students between 1984 and 2016. In total, the National Science Foundation of China has funded 129 primate projects (71.7 million Yuan) supporting 59 researchers from 28 organizations. However, previous research has also shown obvious species bias. Rhinopithecus roxellana, Rhinopithecus bieti, andMacaca mulattahave received much greater research attention than other species. Researchers have also tended to continue to study the same species (55.2%) they studied during their PhD training. To promote the development of primatology in China, we suggest 1) the need for a comprehensive primatology textbook written in Chinese, 2) continued training of more PhD students, and 3) encouragement to study less well-known primate species.

Concepts: Human, China, Science, Mammal, Primate, Primatology, Old World monkey, Yuan Dynasty


Nutritional ecology seeks to explain, in an ecological and evolutionary context, how individuals choose, acquire, and process food to satisfy their nutritional requirements. Historically, studies of primate feeding ecology have focused on characterizing diets in terms of the botanical composition of the plants consumed. Further, dietary studies have demonstrated how patch and food choice in relation to time spent foraging and feeding are influenced by the spatial and temporal distribution of resources and by social factors such as feeding competition, dominance, or partner preferences. From a nutritional perspective, several theories including energy and protein-to-fiber maximization, nutrient mixing, and toxin avoidance, have been proposed to explain the food choices of non-human primates. However, more recently, analytical frameworks such as nutritional geometry have been incorporated into primatology to explore, using a multivariate approach, the synergistic effects of multiple nutrients, secondary metabolites, and energy requirements on primate food choice. Dietary strategies associated with nutrient balancing highlight the tradeoffs that primates face in bypassing or selecting particular feeding sites and food items. In this Special Issue, the authors bring together a set of studies focusing on the nutritional ecology of a diverse set of primate taxa characterized by marked differences in dietary emphasis. The authors present, compare, and discuss the diversity of strategies used by primates in diet selection, and how species differences in ecology, physiology, anatomy, and phylogeny can affect patterns of nutrient choice and nutrient balancing. The use of a nutritionally explicit analytical framework is fundamental to identify the nutritional requirements of different individuals of a given species, and through its application, direct conservation efforts can be applied to regenerate and protect specific foods and food patches that offer the opportunity of a nutritionally balanced diet.

Concepts: Human, Nutrition, Ecology, Nutrient, Essential nutrient, Food, Primate, Primatology


Cultural primatology (i.e., the study of behavioral traditions in nonhuman primates as a window into the evolution of human cultural capacities) was founded in Japan by Kinji Imanishi in the early 1950s. This relatively new research area straddles different disciplines and now benefits from collaborations between Japanese and Western primatologists. In this paper, we return to the cradle of cultural primatology by revisiting our original articles on behavioral innovations and traditions in Japanese macaques. For the past 35 years, our international team of biologists, psychologists and anthropologists from Japan, France, Sri Lanka, the USA and Canada, has been taking an integrative approach to addressing the influence of environmental, sociodemographic, developmental, cognitive and behavioral constraints on the appearance, diffusion, and maintenance of behavioral traditions in Macaca fuscata across various domains; namely, feeding innovation, tool use, object play, and non-conceptive sex.

Concepts: Psychology, Macaque, Primate, Anthropology, Sri Lanka, Primatology, Japanese Macaque, Kinji Imanishi


Inclusion of osteological material in primatological research has a long history, and use of skeletal remains continues to be important in anatomical and anthropological research. Here we report a set of proven methods, including equipment, protocol, and procedure, which enable relatively simple acquisition of skeletal material from naturally deceased animals in field sites and sanctuaries. Such skeletal material, often with extensive accompanying life-history data, is a unique and valuable source of data for both academic and conservation-based research.

Concepts: Greek loanwords, Primate, Anthropology, Object-oriented programming, Primatology, Set