Comparative Animal Behavior

A primate’s Memoir is a bookillustrating Sapolsky’s adventure in Kenya during his primate research. The chapters alternate between giving a description through observing a troop of baboons and the wild culture in Africa. The book portrays an unconventional way of neurophysiology to determine the effects of stress on baboons’ life expectancy. The author’s intention was to focus on stress related diseases in the wild through a study on baboon’s nature of friendship, courtship, and rivalries. The main points in the book revolve around the theme of social behavioral similarities, particularly aggression and stress and genetic and behavioral links between man and baboons.  The book is divided into four main parts; adolescent years, sub-adult years, tenuous adult and the adult hood period. It provides a description of how baboons share social similarities with human beings, since both species stays in large and complex social groupings.

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The chapters provide an understanding of how baboon’s social behavior characteristics correlate and provide an insight to human social characteristics. Guided by a scientific intent of studying male stress, the author analyzed the stages of development that prompted him to challenge the view that testosterone and aggression equals social dominance, therefore making a conclusion that in a stable hierarchy, low ranking males, particularly those who fight more frequently over status exhibit a relatively higher testosterone level making them to be prone to stress related infections than the dominant baboons. Furthermore, he deduced that, regardless of rank, a low level of stress hormone level among males occurs among the group who engages regularly in social grooming and other nonaggressive contact with troop members.

The topics in A primate’s Memoir demonstrate the similarity in behavior and biological traits that shared between baboons and human beings. Based on scientific classification, both humans and baboons belong to the same kingdom, phylum, class and order. These classifications are a reflection of the revolutionary relationships that exists between the species and their genetic similarities. Thus, the genetic linkage existing between baboons and human is as a result of the genetic similarities reflected in the baboons’ anatomical, behavioral, biological, and physiological traits.

Through the study of baboon’s behavior, we gain an insight on how human beings are adapted to the environment. The author’s extensive observation demonstrates that the social status among baboon troops is not entirely determined aggression and dominance. However, like the human society, the baboons have respect for their social poise and finesse in individuals in heir groups.

Aggression and dominance has an important role to play among the baboon troop is fundamentally important in early human development. Human beings begin with an aggressive society that is tight and cohesive. For instance in adulthood, aggressive and powerful males are a source of defense against a large number of predators. Thus, the author makes a clarification that baboon troops are always faced with similar threats same to social behavior in human beings. In comparison, the roles that the males in human groups play are similar to baboons, that is, to protect and lead the group. The females attention is focused on the males, and in both species, the females in both species are primarily the mothers. They do not require the male political skills because they have little to do with the protection of the group.

Initially, the baboons and the human societies shared the same roles and the inequalities between males and females. However, social behavior can be adaptive to certain circumstances and environments, for example after the deaths of many of Sapolsky’s baboon troops died of tuberculosis, the mentality of the remaining group changed. But before the epidemic, the males used to fight over everything and suffered extreme loses. This led to fewer aggressive encounters between the troop members as assessed by stress hormone levels among the low ranking males. This led to the conclusion that behavior is not determined genetically and may be subject to cultural influences.

Baboons and human beings have similar reactions because their social behaviors are adjusted to be less aggressive and more supportive to one another to ensure survival. Baboon species are similar to human beings because they seem to express cultural elements. A highly developed cultural tradition once practiced by human being were considered unique and character traits that separated the specie from others in the animal kingdom. Thus, baboons are no longer characterized as excessively aggressive species. It has been found that an average baboon troop possess the characteristics of low aggression with a relatively high affiliation.

In conclusion, baboons possess the tradition of communication, a hierarchical system, mating customs, gender roles, as well as, norms of acceptable behavior. Sapolsky’s work illustrate that behavioral traditions are not distinctly human traits. Baboons display them as an element type of social behavior.  This means that baboons and human beings believe in the power in numbers and displays a tendency of high affiliation in response to danger.  The book provides us with more insight into the origins of evolution.

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