A Symposium on the Nature of Science

PRIMATES AND EVOLUTION: EXAMPLES FROM THE FIELD

Trudy R. Turner
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Primatologists, like other animal behaviorists, try to understand the evolution of social behavior and social systems. To do this they employ ideas and tools from a variety of disciplines including genetics, ecology, endocrinology, anatomy, physiology and behavior. Over the past 20 years we have attempted to link these disciplines in our understanding of the life history of vervet monkeys. Vervet monkeys are a widely distributed Old World primate. They live in a broad range of habitats, exhibiting a range of environmental stresses, throughout sub-Saharan Africa. To date our studies revealed the influences that habitat, social rank and nutrition have on maternal behavior and reproductive success. Morphological data indicate the relationships between climatic differences and body size and shape. When social patterns and endocrinological values are mapped onto these morphological and environmental differences we find a relationship between hormones, sexual dimporhism, body size, aggression and male competitition. Genetic studies indicate that even groups that are widely separated geographically are not separated genetically. Most genetic variation exists within the local groups, not between groups or area. We are also beginning to be able to determine paternity and maternity and relate this to social interaction. Our intention is that these studies will help elucidate the broad evolutionary questions of the ways in which ecology influences behavior, social interactions influence genetics, and the events of an individual life link to evolutionary processes.

Trudy R. Turner
Department of Anthropology
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Trudy Turner is Professor and Chair of the Anthropology Department at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her research has been primarily on the genetics and evolution of non-human primates. She has conducted long-term field research in Kenya and Ethiopia and has published extensively on these projects. She is currently at work on a book on The Life History of Vervet Monkeys. This summer she will be extending her work to human populations in the Solomon Islands. Turner has been a member of the Executive Committee and membership chair of the American Association of Physical Anthropology. She conducted a membership survey of the association and has recently begun publishing on women in science. She has also served on various NSF and NIH panels. In 1998 she won the Martine Meyer Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education awarded by the College of Letters and Science at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.


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