Map showing distribution of primate species, living and fossil
Primates are the fourth largest order of Mammals with over 500 species of and almost 700 total taxa including identified subspecies. As can be seen in the map above, most occur naturally in tropical regions, near the equator. About half of all mammals are endangered or threatened due to various human activities, including habitat destruction (the primary cause is deforestation), the bushmeat trade, and the pet trade. They range in size from 1 ounce (the Mouse Lemur or Madagascar) to 440 lbs (the male Eastern Lowland Gorilla). Almost all of them are arboreal (meaning they live in trees) and quadrupedal (using all four limbs for normal locomotion).
Like other living organisms, primates are grouped together based on descent into taxa, levels of organization that reflect their relatedness. There are different taxonomic levels, from the Kingdom of Animalia that includes all animals, all the way down to species. When we write a species name, we do it using binomial nomenclature, indicating genus and species. This is why we identify humans by the species name Homo sapiens. Each level is subdivided into further taxa, all of which have names. The main levels of taxonomic organization, along with the name of each level occupied by Homo sapiens are shown here:
Note that membership in each of these taxonomic levels is determined by the presence of a trait that is considered diagnostic of membership. Relatedness of groups within a given level can be further refined by studying and comparing these traits closely to determine which are the most similar. In recent decades, genetic evidence has also been used to settle some of the more difficult taxonomic questions. This images represents the same information about humans in a slightly different way:
A primate family tree, or phylogeny, represents taxonomic groups in yet a different way, according to degree of relatedness and branching evolutionary relationships. In a phylogeny, different taxa are nested in one another. The image below represents the primate order. The different taxonomic levels are named on the left side of the chart and the divisions are named and color-coded. Note that in the far right-hand lower corner, we see the human species:
The best way to understand the different groups making up the primate order is to understand their basis: the traits that distinguish them. Before taking a class like ours, many people are aware that monkeys and apes have different traits– the main one being that monkeys have tails and apes do not. Monkeys and apes have other traits that distinguish them as can be seen in this image:
Note that “traits” includes morphological (physical) characteristics such as having a tail as well as behavioral ones such as the way an animal moves. Some primates are neither monkeys nor apes and are not covered in this image, of course. Other differences can be found within these groups and even individual species can have traits that distinguish them.
Chapter 5 of our Explorations textbook organizes its overview of primates according to the traits that distinguish them, reviewing the various features that characterize the different groupings. As you may remember and can see on the primate phylogeny above, primates are divided into two suborders, Strepsirrhiniand Haplorihini. Each of these suborders is further subdivided and distinguished on the basis of various traits. If you look closely at the image above, you can see that different levels of taxa use the same suffixes. By international convention, certain word endings are used for specific taxons or levels within this classification. For example, ‘family’ names always end in ‘-idae’ (e.g. Hominidae), ‘subfamily’ names end in ‘inae’ (eg Homininae) and ‘tribe’ (1) names end in ‘ini’ (e.g. Hominini). These formal names are then abbreviated to give the common names (hominid, hominine and hominin) respectively.
In addition to your book’s discussion, the following two short videos are very helpful as reviews of the different primate taxa and the traits that characterize each group. I recommend that you watch both of them as review for this assignment:
The second video is a lecture accompanying a Biological Anthropology lab on primate traits and is especially useful because it shows you distinctions on primate skeletal models and skeletons:
Skeletal (including dental) differences are especially important for determining relationships, partly because the evolutionary changes to the skeleton seem to take more time than changes to soft tissue. Skeletal traits are also important because they allow comparisons with the fossil record of ancient organisms, a topic we will study in a future module. Not all of the differences between primate groups are skeletal, however, and even closely related species of primates can show many differences across a variety of traits, as both the book and these two videos show.
DIRECTIONS BELOW IS MY SPECIES
|Northern Lesser Bushbaby
For this assignment, you will have been assigned two primate species, one Strepsirrhine and one Haplorhine. You can find your two species listed with your name at the bottom of this assignment. You will download and fill out
with information about each of your species. The worksheet is a Microsoft Word document and you will need to have Word installed on your computer to complete this assignment. If you do not have Microsoft Word, you can install Microsoft Office (which includes Word) for free here.
The best way to approach this assignment is to answer the questions on the worksheet in order. The first two pages of the worksheet require you to fill out information about each of your species, its place in the primate order, and its geographic range, diet, and behavior. You must provide detailed information for these questions. Insufficient detail will result in the loss of points. The last page of the assignment presents you with a list of traits and asks you to identify whether your species has each of the traits. If your species has a trait on the list, you place an “x” in the checkbox, if it does not, you leave it blank. Whether or not your species has many of these traits will be determined by their place in the primate order because, as our textbook explained and the videos provided above reviewed, the traits follow a taxonomic pattern within the order. If you know the pattern and you know your primates’ place in the order, it will help you answer the questions correctly. Information about all of the species assigned can be found inOne final thing: the second main assignment in this module, your Primate Tinder discussion-assignment, requires you to create a dating profile for one of your two species (you get to choose which one). Feel free to skip ahead look at that assignment prompt now, so you can know what to be looking for as you locate sources, gather information, and complete this first assignment.
Once you have provided the required information on your primate worksheet, you should save your form and upload and submit it by the assignment deadline
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