Primates: From Food to Communication Essay

Primates: From Food to Communication Essay

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Over the course of millions of years, primates’ evolutionary ancestors developed their brains to the point that the brain became the most energy intensive organ in the body. Large brains are very costly investments for an organism, both in terms of percentage of energy consumption, and in terms of the period spent outside the womb in which the organism is unable to defend itself (Cheney & Seyfarth, 2007). Based on evolution scientists know this fact to be true. The only question remaining is: what in the many varied environments of primates led to this overall increase in relative brain and skull sizes?
Many scientists argue that only either social or ecological pressures that the worldwide primate population faces led to the eventual development of larger brains and increase cognitive ability. It is also a very widely held scientific belief that neither of these environmental pressure-types was solely responsible, but in fact that some distinct combination thereof resulted in the anthropologically documented increase in average relative primate brain size (Cheney & Seyfarth, 2007). If a combination of these two pressures was responsible, then necessarily either social or ecological intelligence must have come first and subsequently led to the proliferation of the other.

Realistically, the most likely scenario is that early primates first gained the vestiges of intelligence from ecological factors which were necessary to maintain even the most basic levels of survival, and then, once they began to gain certain evolutionary advantages from that intelligence, they expanded and fine-tuned it by means of social interactions and communication. This explanation gains an exceptional amount of credence from the fact that in order for ...


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... Machiavellian intelligence. Evolutionary Anthropology, 5, 172-180.
Cheney, D.L. & Seyfarth, R.M. (2007). Baboon metaphysics. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (Chapters 1, 6, 7, 8, 12)
Fletcher, M. (Writer and Editor). (2008). Clever monkeys [Television Series Episode]. In J. Clarke & I. Tejaratchi (Producers), Nature. New York: Thirteen/WNET New York and BBC.
Fragaszy, D.M., Greenberg, R., Visalberghi, E., Ottoni, E.B., Izar, P.I., & Liu, Q. (2010). How wild bearded capuchin monkeys select stones and nuts to minimize the number of strikes per nut cracked. Animal Behaviour, 80, 205-214. Reviewed by McClanahan, 2012.
MacDonald, S.E., Pang , J.C., & Gibeault. (1994). Marmoset (Callithrix jacchus jacchus) spatial
memory in a foraging task: Win-stay versus lose-shift strategies. Journal Of Comparative
Psychology, 108, 328-334. Reviewed by Chen, 2012.

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