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7 - Introduction to the Primates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 September 2019

Joanna M. Setchell
Durham University
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Primates are an order of mammals which share a set of traits inherited from a common ancestor that distinguishes them from all other mammals. These derived traits are not all unique to primates and none of the individual traits is shown by all primates. Primates range in body mass from the 30 g Madame Berthe's mouse lemur to around 250 kg for a male Grauer's gorilla. This variation in size is in line with that found in other mammalian orders and is closely associated with what they eat (diet), how they move (locomotion), and their behaviour. In this chapter, I provide a general introduction to the primates and their evolutionary adaptations (traits produced by natural selection for their current function), including their distribution and habitats, adaptations to life in the trees, diet and dietary adaptations, brains and sensory traits, life history and reproduction, behaviour and locomotion, social behaviour and interactions with other species. I then survey the major groups of primates. Throughout the chapter, I highlight terms that are common in the literature but are problematic.

Studying Primates
How to Design, Conduct and Report Primatological Research
, pp. 97 - 118
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2019

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