Biology and primatology. Review of Comparative Primate Biology Volume 2 Part A Behavior Conservation and Ecology edited by G. Mitchell and J. Erwin. New York Alan R. Liss Inc. 1986 633 pp $190код для вставкиСкачать
American Journal of Primatology 1k305-308 (1988) Biology and Primatology Review of Comparative Primate Biology, Volume 2, Part A: Behavior, Conservation, and €co/ogy, edited by G. Mitchell and J. Erwin. New York, Alan R. Liss, Inc., 1986,633 pp $190.00. As objects of research, primates have long been the stepchildren of biology. Tests of important biological theories have rarely involved primates. Major biological journals publish few primate studies, and, until recently, the theories and data of primatologists have been given little credence by biologists. Traditionally, primatologists have addressed questions raised by other primatologists in journals about primates read by other primatologists. Research on no other mammalian order has been so insular in its goals and readership. This situation is a result of the complexity of both the origins and the subjects of primate studies. Arising from the disparate disciplines of psychology and anthropology and, later, biology, primatology has never seemed quite sure what to do with itself. The unique elaboration of individual differences within the primate order has defied easy categorization and the inclusion of humans within the order has provided any generalizations with controversial, and ultimately political, overtones. These various pressures have often led primatology toward an emphasis on the individual and the particular and away from the synthetic approach which is a hallmark of good biology. Volume 2A of the Comparative Primate Biology series is a good example of the unhappy and often tenuous relationships between primatology and biology. The volume is a haphazard collection of miscellaneous reviews that vary widely in quality and topic. Some of the chapters are excellent, stand-alone reviews that represent the best of both primatology and biology. Other chapters are such a chore to read that they made me wonder who, if anyone, the authors were addressing and, in some cases, why the chapter had even been written. In fact, it was no surprise to read that the inspiration for the series developed out of a graduate training program, since a few of the chapters read more like graduate exercises than professional papers. As the editors point out in the foreword and preface, this volume and the series as a whole were intended to be empirical and atheoretical in nature. Although I would argue with the utility of an atheoretical approach, the volume falls so far short of its empirical goals that most of my remarks will be confined to those problems. This volume and others in the series are intended to provide exhaustive, comparative reviews of major topics in primate biology. These reviews are supposed to increase awareness of primate diversity, to highlight the gaps in our knowledge, and to provide evidence that can be used by theorists. The experience of reading this volume, however, is more reminiscent of a punitive blackboard exercise than of the rewarding, intellectual process it apparently was intended to be. The failure is a consequence both of the encyclopedic format of some of the reviews and of the lack of logical relationship among the various topics and is compounded by the absence of any editorial introduction or discussion of the various subsections. 0 1988 Alan R. Liss, Inc. 306 i Whitten If you take the editors at their word and expect this volume to be about the behavioral ecology of primates, you will be very disappointed. The book is divided into five sections (ecology, social structure, development, stress and environments, and communication), each containing two to five reviews. As the editors state, these topics are relevant for understanding primate ecology and promoting primate conservation. However, only two of the 15 papers seem to have been written with these objectives in mind. A more likely scenario is that the editors assembled a group of reviews and then searched for a subject, however vague, to tie them together. The choice of behavioral ecology is not surprising; its global approach makes it a common dumping ground for these uncertain assemblages. The absence of a common theme is especially disappointing, because there are a number of worthwhile reviews that would have been more widely read and appreciated if they had been presented in other contexts. For example, two chapters review and analyze the theory behind one or more approaches to the study of behavior, yet none of the other chapters in this volume could be said to exemplify any of these approaches. Coelho reviews the theory and mathematics behind time-energy budget analyses of behavior. Bernstein and Williams contrast and evaluate two analytical approaches to the study of social organization. Both of these papers raise some interesting points and are likely to be frequently cited in future studies, but both papers would have made more interesting reading if they had been placed in another context. Coelho’s paper would have provided a good introduction to a set of specific studies of primate ecology. The Bernstein and Williams paper would have been an excellent addition to a set of papers discussing the origins of primate societies. Similarly, Nadler, Herndon, and Wallis discuss the hormonal regulation of reproductive behavior. This comparison of monkey and ape sexual behavior has little relationship to any of the other papers in this volume and seems especially out of place in a section entitled “Development.” There is little new here; most of the differences described have been discussed at length elsewhere [eg, Gordon, 1981; Harcourt, 1981; Nadler, 1981; Baum, 19831, and the review completely ignores the data on the sexual behavior of guenons and langurs that contradict this apparent dichotomy [Hrdy 8z Whitten, 19871. However, we are told that two papers in Volume 2B contain papers on reproduction: one on the seasonality of reproductive behavior and one on reproduction in zoological parks. With some editorial input, this review could have provided a good background and perhaps an interesting counterpoint to these other approaches to the study of reproductive behavior. Perhaps a greater fault is that discovery of the topics that do unite some volume chapters is left entirely to the reader. For instance, Baldwin’s chapter on exploration and play, Caine’s chapter on puberty and adolescence, and Capitano’s chapter on behavioral pathology all deal directly or indirectly with the process by which an individual masters and elaborates control over motor and social behavior. Yet there is no evidence that the authors have read one another’s papers, and there are no editorial comments that could elucidate or at least alert readers to the common threads in these chapters. The lack of strong editorial oversight is evident also in the organization and presentation of the individual chapters. Many pages in this volume could have been cut by reducing the reams of data described here into logically organized tables. For example, the recently published Primate Societies [Smuts et al, 19871provides many more reviews in as many pages by extensive reliance on tabular presentation of data. This method also adds much to comprehension, as can be seen from the excellent use of figures and tables in the chapter on primate conservation by Mittermeier et al. It is unfortunate that this technique was not used throughout the volume. Biology and Primatology I 307 The quality of reviews is as diverse as the topics in this volume. There are some excellent reviews here. Three chapters by Epple, Snowdon, and Baldwin, respectively, are especially notable both for the significance of their respective syntheses and for their welcome departures from the strictly phylogenetic organization that characterizes, and ultimately detracts from, most of the other chapters in this vnlirm-e. Epple’s chapter on chemical communication in primates is an engrossing and thoroughly enjoyable review. Her comprehensive review describes the anatomical and neural structures underlying chemical perception, discusses the sources of signals and problems of structural identification, describes signalling behavior, and discusses the types of messages communicated. Epple’s chapter is remarkable not only for the wide range of material and approaches presented but also for the author’s intelligent and objective examination of the value and problems of these various approaches. Snowdon’s chapter on vocal communication in primates can be recommended for many of the same reasons. His perceptive review begins with a phylogenetic overview of vocal repertoires and then goes on to examine the environmental and functional constraints on vocal structure, the types of messages conveyed, and the sources of signal variability. Snowdon continues with an intriguing examination of vocal perception in primates, the neural mechanisms of vocal communication and the ontogeny of vocal behavior, and concludes with an enlightening review of the evidence for grammatical structure in primate communication. Baldwin provides a similarly important synthesis of the data on exploration and play in primate infants. He examines both proximate and ultimate explanations for play and exploration and provides an insightful review of the numerous physiological and environmental factors that may influence the expression of these behaviors. Several other reviews are also noteworthy. Kaplan’s chapter is a solid and very informative review of studies of stress in primates that describes and discusses the history of approaches to stress necessary to understand and evaluate these studies. The chapter on primate conservation by Mittermeier, Oates, Eudey, and Thornback is an exceptionally well-organized review of the global and regional problems threatening primate populations. Caine also provides a thoughtful review of the events and questions surrounding adolescence. Other chapters look promising but are disappointing. An example is the chapter by Schapiro and Mitchell on behavior in primate colonies. This chapter reviews the history and characteristics of a number of free-ranging primate colonies. Information on climate and habitat are provided along with brief summaries of social organization and foraging, reproductive, and caretaking behaviors. The chapter is well researched and contains a good deal of interesting information. The problem is what the reader stands to gain by what the authors themselves call “a seemingly disjointed discussion.” The information contained here should be of interest to several categories of readers. This review should be most valuable for primatologists in search of a study site; by comparing the characteristics of the various colonies and the behaviors exhibited there, the reader might be able to choose an appropriate colony or decide whether a colony is better or worse than a wild population for a particular type of study. Other readers, such as primate researchers comparing behavior from different study sites, might find some basis for interpreting discrepancies in the reported patterns of behavior. Finally, directors of primate colonies or readers interested in establishing a colony might derive some useful information about the factors leading t o the success or failure of a primate colony. Unfortunately, the chapter does not serve any of these goals very well. Much of the necessary information is present, but synthesis, for the most part, is left to the reader. Finally, there are several chapters of elusive value and meaning. These chapters include an unfocused review of interanimal distance by Ibanez, two prolonged and 308 I Whitten rather tedious reviews of perinatal behavior in prosimians and anthropoids by Shively and Mitchell, and a surprisingly unsurprising chronicle of primate field studies by Southwick and Smith. Assessments of significance necessarily reflect the personal biases of the reviewer and should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. I may be alone in thinking that the proclivities of various primates to vomit at birth is somewhat akin to a history of the three-pronged fork, and many primatologists may be happy to have 100 pages of this sort of information on their bookshelves. Others may conclude that the high quality of a number of reviews in this volume overshadows the problems of the others. I doubt that many colleagues will be happy, however, to pay the $190.00 pricetag necessary to obtain this volume. Both the price and the length of this volume could have been reduced to a more manageable size by a stronger editorial hand. It is unfortunate that some excellent reviews and many good reviews are hidden in this diffident vehicle. Surely primate biology can be more than an offertorium to the theorists of biology. As biologists of the Order Primates, we are unique in our appreciation of, and willingness to call upon, the diversity of approaches to the study of life. We have as our subjects one of the most complex and interesting orders in the animal kingdom. It is time that we had the confidence to be the biologists, and the courage to be the critics, of this discipline. Patricia L. Whitten Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Yale School of Medicine New Haven, Connecticut REFERENCES sexual activity. Pp. 370-384 in PRIMATE Baum, M.J. Hormonal modulation of sexuality in female primates. BIOSOCIAL SCI- SOCIETIES. B.B. Smuts, D.L. Cheney, R.M. ENCE 33578-582,1983. Seyfarth, R.W. Wrangham, T.T. Struhsaker, Gordon, T.P. Reproductive behavior in the eds. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, rhesus monkey: Social and endocrine vari1987. ables. AMERICAN ZOOLOGIST 21:185- Nadler, R.D. Laboratory research on sexual 195,1981. behavior of the great apes. Pp. 191-238 in Harcourt, A.H. Inter-male competition and REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY OF THE the reproductive behavior of the great apes. GREAT APES COMPARATIVE AND Pp. 301-318 in REPRODUCTIVE BIOLBIOMEDICAL PERSPECTIVES. C.E. GraOGY OF THE GREAT APES: COMPARAham, ed. New York, Academic Press, 1981. TIVE AND BIOMEDICAL PERSPEC- Smuts, B.B.; Cheney, D.L.; Seyfarth, R.M.; TIVES. C.E. Graham, ed. New York, Aca- Wrangham, R.W.; Struhsaker, T.T., eds. demic Press, 1981. PRIMATE SOCIETIES. Chicago, UniverHrdy, S.B.; Whitten, P.L. The patterning of sity of Chicago Press, 1987.