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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: January 2021

1 - Why Place Matters, and its Use in Primate Behavioral and Ecological Research

Summary

Almost all behavior can be assessed spatially, paving the way for insights into both the proximate and ultimate causes of expressed behaviors. Field primatologists following their focal group or individual animal identify and record essential data about where salient behaviors occur because behaviors do not occur in random locations, but in relation to what the environment and habitat specifically affords to a primate with regard to traveling, foraging, defending a home range, finding mates, and fulfilling other basic and essential needs. Recording the “where” and also the “when” and the “what” of a traveling primate’s behavior in conjunction with the biogeography of the habitat is a multilayered, dynamic problem. The spatial analysis tools, global positioning systems (GPS), and geographic information systems (GIS) analysis provide a stable and powerful means to apply cutting-edge data and analytic methods to the study of free-ranging primate behavior. In this way, primatologists can address Tinbergen’s “Four Questions” of mechanism, ontogeny, adaptive value, and phylogeny underlying behaviors (Tinbergen 1963), and develop an overarching picture of their primate species’ patterns of behavior, habitat use, and life histories.

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