Primate Behaviour

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Key Definitions


  • A hierarchy within a group exists where individuals have a place in the order of importance within the group.
  • Often shown by individuals higher up in the hierarchy recieving more food or having rights of access to mate with other individuals

Social Behaviour:

  • The behaviour of organisms of a particular species living together in groups with relatively defined roles for each member of the group.
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Social Organisation in Gorillas

Mountain gorillas live in stable groups called troops, containing around 10 members:

  • One mature dominant male (the silverback)
  • number of females
  • The offspring of the females

The dominant male protects and leads the group in search of food. They are also the only male that mates with the mature females.

As younger males reach sexual maturity they leave the group in order to form a new group and attract females

As younger females reach sexual maturity they either stay with the same group or join another

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Social Behaviour in Gorillas


  • one individual picks the parasites off of the fur of another
  • used to bond and reinforce relationships between eachother

Care of young offspring:

  • role of the mother
  • first 5 months, young in constant contact with mother. By the age of 12 months, young will venture 5m away from mother

Further learning of offspring:

  • juvenille gorillas play together and imitate adult behaviour of food foraging
  • silverback protects them from older males and is a source of new skills when they play


  • calls, displays and grunts used to signal danger, issue threats and in play fighting displays
  • facial expressions used to recognise members of the group
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Advantages of Social Behaviour

Females give birth to only one (or very few) offspring at a time

  • Enhances survival rate of offspring as group can protect fewer offspring better than multiple

Young learn through observation of and play with the other members of the group

  • Learned behaviour is vital to survival of primates

Individuals work together

  • Food resource knowledge is shared within group and there is a greater ability to detect and deter predators
  • Due to relatively large brain size the maturation of primates is slowed down so group can come together to proect and teach the immature young
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