Other Societies: Social Organisation and Behaviour in Primates

Publication Type:

Book Chapters


Lectures on Recent Trends in Ethology and Behavioural Sciences, Department of Zoology, Christ College, Irinjalakuda, p.104–117 (2003)




Primates are, quite simply, an extremely fascinating group of mammals. They possess a veritable array of ecological, behavioural, and morphological adaptations that range from the primitive to the highly advanced. But the most interesting feature that characterises the singularity of this order is the distinctly sophisticated social behaviour that its species display. Most of them live in large stable groups, interactions between individuals are governed by intricate rules of competition, dominance and cooperation, the period of infant development is relatively long, and kinships and friendships are carefully cultivated to aid in conflicts against rivals. All this is, of course, exciting in itself, but if one considers how closely we are related to the nonhuman primates, physically and genetically (human and chimpanzee DNA is 98.6% similar), the imperative need to study and understand primate social behaviour becomes all too apparent. Understanding the social behaviour of nonhuman primates is the first step to understanding the basis of our own sociality, of searching for the roots of culture and social norms that began with our not-too-distant ancestors.