Biological anthropology subfield of primatology
Biological anthropology or physical anthropology mainly focuses on human biological variability, and we use people’s traits or features to make the comparison to find the similarities and differences in a group to demonstrate their behavior. By the definition of anthropology, I choose primatology to explain why primatology studies can contribute to the broader themes of anthropology.
As we know, human belong to primate order, and usually, the studies of primate are talking about nonhuman primate. Human and African apes have the same ancestor around 5-8 million years ago, for the evolution theory this is not the long time to diminish our common characteristics. It determined that we still have many similarities. Shared ancestry for human and African apes means both of us can use tools, have a long-lasting social relationship, and both of us have the multiplex communication system. Moreover, the common physiological characteristics of the nonhuman primate can contribute to our pathology. Rhesus monkey and human have similar brain organization, some brain’s visual area studies and neuroanatomical studies by rhesus monkey have extremely useful in human brain study. Also, some fundamental biological phenomena helping us understand reproduction, AIDS, treatment, and vaccines…etc. From Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, the research of nonhuman primates developing the yellow fever vaccine and this research contribute to Nobel-Prize-Winning.
Viruses can efficiently transmit directly from humans to wild gorillas. In fact, because we have many common genetic and physiological characteristics, all diseases can invade us, and they can also harm gorillas. “Human diseases can attack gorillas, including those diseases that are easily transmitted, such as respiratory diseases or diarrhea, and bacteria that can be preserved for a long time in the environment, and they have a high rate of transmission,” Fabian Leendertz said. For example, in Central Africa, Ebola virus has spread widely among gorillas and chimpanzee and has also infected people who ate the infected animals.
The study from Jane Goodall, we know the human is not the only one species has emotions. Chimpanzee spends two or three hours a day grooming for each other, which is a fundamentally social activity. Like humans, the chimpanzee has a unique character and habit. Chimpanzee is closest to humans in physiology, advanced nervous activity, and kinship, so it is the ideal experimental animal for medical and psychological research. They communicate through sound, in addition to nonverbal communication, such as hand gestures, handshakes, and hugs. It can be seen that the chimpanzee is emotional inside. The cooperation between them is very efficient, and also applies to hunting. They can express feelings similar to humans, such as humor, anger, sadness, and fear. These similarities in communication can further explore our interrelationship. It is not only the similarity between chimpanzee and humans but also between other species.
The difference between human and nonhuman primate also can be helping us learn more about ourselves. In the article from ASP (American Society of Primatologists), it questions why humans walk upright on two limbs but majority nonhuman primates still quadrupedal? By the study of why we are bipedal, the answer helps us learn more about humanity. The difference not only between a single group but also between different groups or species. For example, the squirrel monkey is group by one male adult and many adult females, but in the same area the Titi monkey is group by one single male adult, and one female adult to breed their offspring, so why those two groups have the different social system? Genetic studies suggest that the orangutan AIDS virus may have existed 1 million years ago and transmitted from the variant of the monkey virus to the orangutans. The researchers speculated that until 1930, people in the Central African region began to kill and hunt orangutans, and were contagious, leading to the spread of the world’s most popular HIV-1 Model, while another HIV-2 is confined to West Africa, and scientists speculate that human ate monkeys caused HIV in the 60s of last century. Moreover, the critical role for the source of HIV is that, although many orangutans have the orangutan HIV, they do not have such a massive spread of disease like humans. The reason HIV in orangutans is not caused severe consequence maybe can give the anthropologist a hint to deal with human HIV disease.
In conclusion, primatology can help human look through back to understand why we differ than nonhuman primate, why human development more emotion and skill than other primates, and for the better human future, we can use the similarity between human and nonhuman primate to benefit humankind.