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Primate potpourri. Review of primate ontogeny cognition and social behaviour edited by J.G. Else and P.C. Lee. New York Cambridge University Press 1986 410 pp $19.95 paper $59

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American Journal of Primatology 13:339-341(1987)
Primate Potpourri
Review of Primate Ontogeny, Cognition, and Social Behaviour, edited by J.G. Else and P.C.
Lee. New York, Cambridge University Press, 1986,410 pp, $19.95 paper, $59.50 cloth.
This volume of 38 chapters was compiledfrom contributions presented in several
different paper sessions and symposia at the Tenth Congress of the International
Primatological Society, held in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1984. As might be surmised from
the book’s title, this is an eclectic collection. It contains reviews, essays, empirical
studies, and theoretical contributions on many different aspects of primate behavior.
In general, papers on related topics have been grouped together in each of the book’s
seven parts, though apparently this was not always possible. For instance, the two
papers in Part I, which is labeled as an “introduction” to the book, deal with widely
different issues. Mason discusses the difficulty of systematically defining and comparing complex behavioral patterns (what he refers to as “political” traits) across
individuals or species. The other paper, by Rhine, presents a history of baboon
research in Mikumi National Park with an accompanying discussion of problems
and solutions that could be of use to workers at other field sites. These are both very
interesting papers, but neither really serves as an introduction to the sections that
Part I1 of the volume, “Primate Thinking,” is nicely organized, beginning with
a thought-provoking essay cum introduction by Candland and Kyes. The authors in
this section have tackled one of the most difficult but fascinating areas of current
research, that is, to what extent can and should the primate “mind” (intentionality,
consciousness, awareness, cognition) be invoked to explain the behavior of nonhuman primates. Despite a lack of uniformity in terminology and some imprecision in
definitions, all the authors apparently agree on the need for acknowledgment and
study of the role of complex mental processes in primate behavior, as well as on the
difficulties and dangers involved in inferring such processes from behavior itself.
The stated goal of the following section, “Primate Behaviour and Cognition in
Nature,” is, in fact, to assess how cognitive concepts might be applied to the study
of natural behavior, particularly ranging and feeding behavior. A problem that
emerges in this section is that not all of the papers actually take up the challenge
and consider these behaviors from a cognitive viewpoint. For example, Andrews’
paper on the contrasting feeding patterns of squirrel and titi monkeys focuses
primarily on correlating foraging behavior with differences in the social behavior
and mating systems of the two species. Also in this section, Whitehead analyzes the
development of adult feeding selectivity in infant howling monkeys as a means of
exploring two contrasting learning paradigms. These are thoughtful papers, but
they make no use of a cognitive framework for the behaviors under examination. In
0 1987 Alan R. Liss, Inc.
340 / Gouzoules
other papers some of the problems discussed in the preceding section become apparent: Cognitive complexity is sometimes used interchangeably with “intelligence” or
“learned behavior.” It is unfortunate that no papers on the cognitive implications of
many facets of complex social behavior, such as are described in later chapters, eg,
alliances, intertroop transfer, could have been included in this section.
The fourth part of the volume focuses on development and also on communication. Two papers consider brain and physical growth patterns in macaques. Two
others compare the ontogeny of several behavioral and locomotory patterns among
monkeys, apes, and humans. The final two chapters deal with aspects of primate
communication. Peters discusses the possibility that grading in the vocal repertoires
of primates may serve to provide an almost limitless source of expression. She
speculates that, in primates, higher “perceptual-cognitive” capacities might have
coevolved with graded signal systems that allow calls to be “customized in form and
meaning.” Peters points out, quite rightly, some of the difficulties inherent in
constructing categories of call types. However, she fails to recognize that selection
pressure to convey certain kinds of information unambiguously is likely to result in
the evolution of calls with little variation in signal form. Nor do gradedness and
complexity of vocal system fall strictly along an evolutionary continuum, as the
sophisticated system of vocal communication in ground squirrels illustrates. In the
final paper of this section Liska discusses the use of symbols or signs with varying
degrees of arbitrariness across nonhuman and human primates.
The second half of this volume deals primarily with social behavior: Development, dominance, relationships, and reproduction. Most of the 20 papers in the final
three sections are empirical studies, though Bateson begins Part V, “Functional
Aspects of Development,” with a discussion of the continuing search for both the
functions and mechanisms of behavioral development. Four papers on aspects of
infants’ relationships with other group members follow. Lee’s chapter on the importance of environmental influences on the social context (including other group
members) in which infants develop is particularly interesting. She illustrates how
ecological variables that determine group demography ultimately affect many aspects of an infant’s social environment and relationships, eg, the availability of play
partners and siblings and the timing and nature of weaning.
The first three papers in Part VI also focus on infant primates’ developing
relationships. Mendoza and Mason analyze the roles of monogamous male and
female titi monkeys in the care of their offspring, as well as the critical part played
by infants themselves in coordinating their parents’ care. Vocalizations given by the
infants appear to be instrumental in eliciting the different care-giving behaviors of
each parent. Three other chapters consider aggressive behavior and dominance
relationships in macaque groups. A paper by Quiatt on the “application of household
analysis to nonhuman primate social organization” defies categorization.
The final section of eight papers focuses on “Social and Reproductive Strategies.” This section emphasizes various behavior patterns of adult primates, including lemurs, monkeys, and humans. Abbott et a1 show that the social suppression of
reproduction in subordinate male and female talapoin monkeys in captivity occurs
via different pathways. Manzolillo and Noe, in separate papers, discuss two different
aspects of the life-history pattern of male savannah baboons: Intertroop transfer and
alliance formation. Wasser and Starling analyze female coalitions in yellow baboons
seeking evidence for reproductive suppression. As mentioned earlier, some discussion of the role of cognition in the complex behavior patterns described in these
papers would have been desirable. The last paper in the volume, by Blurton-Jones,
offers a theoretical model of fitness returns from resources. The model is discussed
with respect to both nonhuman and human primate behavior, particularly dominance relationships and food-sharing.
Primate Potpourri / 341
In the book's preface, the editors note that papers were kept short in order to
include as many contributions as possible. While this may have been a necessary
decision, the enforced brevity sometimes comes at the expense of fully developing
arguments or presenting sufficient data. As a result, while the majority of papers in
the book are competent, I consider only some dozen or so to represent significant
contributions. The diversity of topics covered, however, does allow the reader a
general overview of several areas of current research in primate behavior. This is
surely the volume's major strength.
Sarah Gouzoules, PhD
Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center
Emory University
Lawrenceville, Georgia
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