Monday, December 06, 2010

Primates Are More Resilient To Environmental Ups And Downs

What sets mankind's closest relatives — monkeys, apes, and other primates — apart from other animals? According to a new study, one answer is that primates are less susceptible to the seasonal ups and downs — particularly rainfall— that take their toll on other animals. The findings may also help explain the evolutionary success of early humans, scientists say.

The study appeared online in the November 30 issue of American Naturalist.

"Wild animals deal with a world that's unpredictable from year to year," said study lead author Bill Morris, a biologist at Duke University. "The weather can change a lot; there can be years with plenty of food and years of famine," he explained.

To find out how well primates cope with this unpredictability compared with other animals, researchers working at the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham, N.C. analyzed decades of birth and survival data for seven species of wild primates: muriqui monkeys and capuchin monkeys in Central and South America, yellow baboons, blue monkeys, chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa, and sifakas (lemurs) in Madagascar.

Collecting this data was no small effort. Nearly every day for more than 25 years, seven research teams working around the world have monitored the births, lives, and deaths of thousands of individual primates.


Full story here.
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