Unit 5 – Primates And Primate Evolution – Biology Essay

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Unit 5 – Primates and Primate Evolution – Biology Lecture Notes

I. Introduction
a. Primates are a group of mammals that includes monkeys, apes, and humans.
b. They are atypical as a group in that they follow a generalized form that is not
specialized for any specific adaptive strategy
c. In addition, primates occupy every environmental niche on the planet, from the tropics
to the artic.

II. Primate Evolutional Trends
a. Primates are distinguished by three main evolutionary trends
1) Limbs and Locomotion
i. pentadactyly
ii. nails instead of claws
iii. prehensile hands and feet
iv. ability to maintain erect posture
v. retention of the clavicle
2) Dentition and Diet
i. generalized dental pattern designed for varied diet
ii. omnivorous subsistence pattern
3) Cranio-Neurology and Behavior
i. reduction of snout and de-emphasis of olfactory senses
ii. increased emphasis on vision and stereoscopic vision*
iii. increased complexity of the brain
iv. increased parental investment
v. increased dependency on learned behavior
vi. greater group cohesion
vii. adult males permanently associated with the group
*stereoscopic vision: when visual fields of each eye overlap and
sensory information from each eye is relayed to both sides of the
brain, allowing depth perception & accurate distance estimation

III. Explanations for Primate Evolutionary Trends

a. Arboreal Adaptation Hypothesis

1) The primates adaptation to an arboreal niche is principally responsible for most
of the unique primate evolutionary trends

2) Morphological characteristics such as dentition, diet, locomotory patterns, and
limb architecture are all due in some measure to the adaptation of life in the trees.

3) Physiological characteristics such as increased dependence on vision,
stereoscopic ability, reduction of the snout and de-emphasis on olfactory senses
are due to...

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