primate culture

Today’s lecture is titled "Sticks and stones can break chimp bones, but words can never hurt them (because they don’t seem to have a language like we conceive of it, with obvious phenomes and phonic rules): Primate Culture" and I’m far, far too amused by it.

This is one of the most bizarre wildlife photos I have ever seen! This is a wild macaque riding a sika deer!

In the words of Primatologist Cédric Sueur: “My favorite behavior is that of a macaque riding on the backs of Sika deer. There is a close cooperation between macaques and deer on Yakushima island. The deer eat seeds dropped by macaques on the ground, as well as their feces. Macaques may groom the deer for parasites such as lice, which are rich in proteins. At times, macaques will climb on the back of a deer for transportation. They don’t travel the kinds of distances humans do on horseback, but the similarity is there.”

Photo Credit: Alexandre Bonnefoy.

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An Ape That Uses Fire
By Imgur

Kanzi, a bonobo ape, watched the film “Quest for Fire”, about primitive men searching for fire and then learning to make it, over 500 times and is now obsessed with fire building. The ape learned this behavior from the film and will now build fire and cook food over it. This is nothing short of amazing and gives us some insight into our evolutionary past and the ability of primates to acquire culture.

This weekend at the Museum, in conjunction with Sunday’s Spotlight Asia: Ring in the Year of the Monkey festival, we’re celebrating Asian primates. In the Museum’s Primate Hall, visitors can explore primate biology, the important cultural role primates have played across the Asian continent, and learn about what needs to be done to ensure their survival.

Above is the Greater slow loris. Slow lorises are small nocturnal primates found in South and Southeast Asia. They are the only venomous primates, excreting a clear histamine-like compound that’s a lot like cat dander. If a loris bites you, you might go into anaphylactic shock. All slow loris species are recognized as endangered with extinction because of habitat loss and severe pressures from hunting for illegal wildlife trade.

The siamang is a gibbon native to Malaysia, Thailand and Sumatra. Siamangs and their relatives are extremely well adapted for brachiating, or swinging, by their arms from branch to branch. The siamang is monogamous, and forms breeding partnerships for life. Male-female pairs to make loud, resonating, territorial duets at the beginning and the end of each day, lasting about 10 minutes. Siamangs and the other gibbons are endangered with extinction due primarily to forest loss and opportunistic collection for pet trade.

Tarsiers are found on the islands of Southeast Asia, and are almost entirely arboreal, meaning it spends almost all of its times in the trees. Tarsiers are nocturnal, and are one of the few animals that have eyes bigger than their brains. Their big eyes help them see better at night. Tarsiers eat 10% of their own body weight every 24 hours!

Tarsiers populations are threatened by forest loss and conversion especially due to expanding oil palm plantations, fires, and logging. Tarsiers are also collected for the illegal pet trade, though this species also does not generally survive well in captivity and typically dies within 3 days of capture.

Learn much more about a variety of Asian primates on Sunday at the Museum during the Spotlight Asia: Ring in the Year of the Monkey festival.

Science has uncovered major continuities between the social behavior of humans and other primates, including politics, culture, and morality. In this podcast, primatologist and ethologist Frans de Waal explores the similarities between humans and other primates in power politics, transmission of knowledge and habits, empathy, and sense of fairness.

Download this podcast.

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This is a Bornean Orangutan, the only Asian great ape. Orangutans are the largest tree-dwelling animals on earth, and a male may stretch his arms more than 7 feet. They have one of the longest life histories of the great apes; female orangutans give birth only once every eight years—the longest time period of any animal—have the longest childhood of any primate, with infants and juveniles nursing until they’re six years old. Because orangutans are so dependent on trees, they are endangered everywhere they live due to logging, forest fires, forest conversion to palm oil plantations, and hunting.

This Sunday, celebrate the Lunar New Year at the Museum! We’re kicking off the Year of the Monkey with a festival celebrating Asian art and culture. On the Hall of Ocean life, experience contemporary choreography, traditional storytelling, and hands-on activities taught by local artisans, then head to the Primate Hall to take a look at the important cultural role primates have played across the Asian continent and explores what needs to be done to ensure their survival. 

Learn more about this full day of events at the Museum!

AMNH/D.Finnin