Abstract # 2487 Event # 59:

Scheduled for Friday, June 20, 2008 08:15 AM-09:15 AM: (Meeting Room 2DEF) Featured Speaker


A WINDOW ONTO THEIR LIVES AND LIFE HISTORIES: looking from the sky to under the skin to understand wild primates

J. Altmann
Princeton University, Dept. of Ecology & Evol. Biology, 401 Guyot Hall, Washington Rd., Princeton, NJ 08544, USA
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     A career spent learning from our primate relatives is a privileged one indeed and, across almost 40 years, I have been privileged to be educated by six generations of the Amboseli baboon population and challenged by them to find new ways to obtain essential information to answer the most compelling questions about primate societies and individual lives within them. From the beginning, each year has brought new and interesting findings, but the marginal value of each year has only increased as many of our richest results have been derived from gradual accumulation of ecological and life history data. These data now provide sufficient power to test many longstanding as well as emerging hypotheses, particularly in combination with hitherto inaccessible information that is now obtained through recently developed non-invasive techniques for ‘getting under the skin’. These methodologies enable us to identify paternal relatedness, measure hybridity, and relate physiology to behavioral, life history, and environmental processes. For example, the straightforward and pervasive matrilineal structure of cercopithicine societies is now seen to harbor functionally important patrilineal relationships as well, the two together creating the warp and woof of an integrated society. Fathers as well as mothers affect offspring fitness even in these most polygynandrous of species, and how social a mother is affects her offspring’s fitness as well. Paternal sisters, like close maternal relatives, form social bonds, and when neither type of close relative is available, friendships matter so much that bonds are established with nonrelatives rather than individuals doing without. These studies together with other investigations into hybridity, ecological challenges, and physiology are shown to reveal ever more richness in the texture of primate life as individuals flexibly meet complex challenges in a changing world.