Glossary of Terms

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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- A -

agonistic displays   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
threatening gestures, stares, poses, or displays intended to intimidate others.
allogrooming   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the common primate practice of carefully picking through the hair of someone, looking for insects, twigs, and other debris.  Grooming others is a common way by which primates communicate affection and reduce group tension.  See autogrooming.
alpha male click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced  and alpha female
the adult male and female members of a community who are at the top of their gender based dominance hierarchies.  Non-human primate alpha males and females usually mate more frequently and have greater access to food.
arboreal    click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
tree-living; referring to animals that are adapted to life in the trees.  Arboreal animals spend most of their time scampering around in trees rather than on the ground, in the air, or water.  See semi-terrestrial and terrestrial.
autogrooming   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
grooming oneself in contrast to allogrooming.
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- B -

body language
gestures, postures, and facial expressions used to communicate nonverbally.
brachiators   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
animals that travel through the trees by swinging under branches with a hand over hand motion.  The smaller apes and some New World monkeys brachiate.  Brachiation is also referred to as suspensory climbing.
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- C -

carnivorous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
eating only meat.  Animals that have this sort of diet are carnivores.  See herbivorous and omnivorous.
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- D -

displays
visual messages, or body language, used by primates and other animals primarily to communicate anger, fear, and other basic emotions.  Displays are a strong indication of an animal's emotional state.  See agonistic display.
diurnal   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
being awake and active during the daylight hours but sleeping during the nighttime.  See nocturnal.
dominance hierarchy   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a group of individuals arranged in rank order.  In some non-human primate species, each community has a distinct male and female dominance hierarchy.  Every individual is ranked relative to all other community members of the same gender.  In the case of rhesus macaque females, rank is determined by the relative rank of their mothers.  Depending on the species, male ranking may be similarly determined by the mother's rank or it may be earned in competition with other males.  Individuals who are higher in the dominance hierarchy usually have greater access to food, sex, and other desirable things.   See alpha male and female
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- E -

ecological niches   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
specific micro-habitats in nature to which populations or organisms adapt.   They are usually seen in terms of being food getting opportunities in the environment.
estrus   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the period of time when female animals are sexually excited and receptive to mating.  Estrus occurs around the time of ovulation in many species.
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- F -

foraging group
a group of animals that seek food together.  In the case of non-human primates, this group may consist of all community members or only some of them.
free-ranging population
a non-captive group of primates or other animals that is living in its natural habitat, largely free from constraints imposed by humans.
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- G -

great apes
the gorillas, common chimpanzees, and bonobos of Africa and the orangutans of Southeast Asia.  These species are referred to as great apes because they are the largest apes.  See lesser apes.
grooming
carefully picking through hair looking for insects, twigs, and other debris.  See allogroom.
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- H -

herbivorous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
eating only vegetable foods.  Animals that have this sort of diet are herbivores or vegetarians. See carnivorous and omnivorous.
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- J -

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- K -

kinship
relationships that are recognized between individuals based on family ties.  Among humans, those ties are created by marriage and shared descent from ancestors.  Among non-human primates, they are due to descent.
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- L -

lesser apes
the gibbons and siamangs of Southeast Asia.   These species are referred to as lesser apes because they are the smallest apes. See great apes.
locomotor patterns   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the methods an animal uses to move.  These may include such things as swimming, jumping, walking, brachiating, etc.
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- M -

mammal   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a class of warm blooded, usually hairy animals, that feed their young with milk secreted by the mammary glands of females.  All primates are mammals.
manual dexterity   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to the ability to manipulate objects with the hands.
matrilineal descent   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
recognizing family ties only between mothers and their children.
monogamous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
having only one mate at a time.  Monogamy is rare among nonhuman primates but common among humans.
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- N -

New World
see Old World.
nocturnal   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
being awake and active when it is dark but sleeping during the day.  See diurnal.
nuclear family   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
an adult male and female mating pair along with their children.
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- O -

Old World
The Old World is Europe, Asia, and Africa.  The New World is the Americas.  This distinction is an ethnocentric reflection of the European origin of our modern sciences.
olfactory   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the sense of smell.  With the exception of prosimians, primates are relatively poor at olfactory sensing.
omnivorous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the ability to live by eating both meat and vegetable foods.   See carnivorous and herbivorous.
order
a Linnaean classification category above the level of species and genus and below class.  Each order can consist of many species and genera.
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- P -

polyandrous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a mating pattern in which one female lives with more than one male mate.  Polyandry is rare among nonhuman primates.  It is seen only among marmosets and tamarins.   Polyandry occurs in some human societies in isolated rural regions of India, Sri Lanka, and especially Nepal, and Tibet.
polygynous   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
a mating pattern in which one male has more than one female mate.  Polygyny is common among primates.  It is found among hamadryas baboons, geladas, langurs, howler monkeys, gorillas and many human societies.  It has been a culturally preferred marriage pattern in numerous Native American, African, and South Asian cultures.  However, polygyny is not as common among humans as monogamy, even in cultures that advocate it.
primatology   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the study of primates and their behavioral patterns.  Primatologists usually carry out long term field studies of free-ranging populations.
protocultural   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to a very rudimentary culture.  Chimpanzees and possibly other great apes as well as our fossil ancestors 3-4 million years ago are said to have such a protoculture.  While they are dependent on their community's learned behavior patterns for survival, they do not have complex cultural technologies like humans.
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- Q -

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- R -

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- S -

savannas   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
usually semi-arid plains regions covered with grasses and occasional scattered trees.
semi-terrestrial   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to animals that spend much of their day on the ground but usually return to the trees to sleep.  See arboreal and terrestrial.
sexual dimorphism   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to anatomical differences between males and females of the same species.  Primate males are usually significantly larger and more muscular than females.  This is especially true of semi-terrestrial monkeys and the great apes.  Humans are also sexually dimorphic.
subadult   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
the stage of maturation in which animals are beyond infancy and early childhood but are not yet fully grown.
symbols   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
things, such as words, that can represent something else that is not here and now.  The meaning of a symbol is arbitrary and is given by those who use it.
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- T -

terrestrial   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
referring to animals that spend most of their time on the ground rather than in the air, water, or trees.  See arboreal and semi-terrestrial.
territorial defense behavior
active defense by community members of their shared home range or territory.  Many species of non-human primates use scent marking, loud vocalizations, or threat gestures to defend their territories against incursions by other communities of their species.
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- U -

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- V -

vocalizations   click this icon to hear the preceding term pronounced
sounds produced primarily by the throat and mouth.  Primate vocalizations include a wide variety of hoots, whistles, grunts, etc.
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Copyright 2000-2014 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.