Educated Guesses Physical Adaptations
A LESSON IN DRAWING YOUR OWN INFORMED CONCLUSIONS ABOUT NATURE:
PRIMATES’ PHYSICAL ADAPTATIONS
Nonhuman primates are incredibly diverse in size, shape, type, and the ways that they are “outfitted” to be successful in their ecosystems. We witness this in the forms of the physical adaptations that Mother Nature bestowed upon them. Let’s explore WHY they have developed these adaptations and HOW they benefit the primate species and their ecosystems.
While doing this, you will learn about a variety of species and their habitats. You will learn why their bodies are designed for those habitats. You will see why these species need to be protected and their habitats preserved. Nonhuman primates are an indicator species of the health of their ecosystems. If they are at risk, so too is every species with whom they share their habitats. What will you discover?
Watch the video for the topic of your choice or the topic that your instructor selected for you.
Use the 5-Step Scientific method, illustrated below, to develop your educated guess.
You might develop a hypothesis early on. Why have you arrived at this hypothesis? After you do your research, you might change your mind. If so, why? Justify your conclusion.
Research carefully via your preferred search engine. Pose your search questions carefully. In some cases, we provide hints for the types of questions or topics to search for.
Do not rely solely on the initial answers that pop up. Sometimes the internet lists choices because they are based on the authors’ opinions. But will their opinions be your opinions? Search further until you are satisfied that you have the full “picture.”
After you do your internet searches, come back to our Primate Species Profiles to learn more about the species in question.
You’ll find some hints in our videos. But you have to figure out the value of those hints for yourself. Some may lead you slightly astray to encourage you to research more carefully. And don’t just look up the species in the videos. There are over 500 fascinating primate species to choose from. You may meet some that you’ve never before heard of.
Identifying Species by Name
When you name a species, be aware that it might have multiple common names. In some very confusing cases, some species even share common names! Make sure that you’re being as specific as possible.
What happens when species have multiple common names or share common names? Scientific names, which are written in Latin, clear up the confusion. Click the button to the left below to find out why species have both common names and scientific names. Click the button on the right, below, to learn how species’ names are written.
For some of the exercises in this lesson, you may need to name the subspecies too, especially for great apes. For help with this, go to the Primate Species Profiles dropdown menu. For others, you don’t need to get too deeply into the species’ name. You can just list the primate family, for example, “squirrel monkey,” “guenon,” or “gibbon.” The lesson overview will tell you how detailed you should get.
For all primate species, include in your hypothesis where they live. Name the continent, country or countries, and habitat type or types. This is a very important part of determining why they have evolved these adaptations. Remember, the physical adaptations are meant to enable the primate species to have the greatest success in and for their natural habitat or habitats. (Hint: some primates live in multiple habitat types.)
Be sure to keep an eye out for the species’ Conservation Status. Is the species threatened or endangered? If they are built for success, why are they threatened or endangered?
5-STEP SCIENTIFIC METHOD
1. Consider the Question or Questions in the Videos
2. Make Observations
3. Form Your hypothesis
- What’s your initial guess based on your observations?
4. Gather Data
- This is the research step
- Learn about the species in your hypothesis
5. Analyze Your Data and Draw Your Conclusion or Conclusions
- Test your hypothesis against what you learn
- Have you changed your mind? If so, why? If not, why?
- Primate Species Profiles and the dropdown menu items
- African Apes At-a-Glance
- African Monkeys At-a-Glance
- African Prosimians At-a-Glance
- Asian Apes At-a-Glance
- Asian Monkeys At-a-Glance
- Asian Prosimians At-a-Glance
- Latin American Monkeys At-a-Glance
- Ten of the Weirdest Primate Species
- Ten Primate Species You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
- Ten of the Most Endangered Primate Species
- Ten of the Most Well Know Primate Species
- “Peculiar Primates” Fun Facts About These Curious Creatures by Debra Kempf Shumaker. This delightful poem about nonhuman primates highlights their unique adaptations. Informative backmatter provides details about the adaptations featured in the poem and the primates who sport them.
Who are the largest and the smallest apes, monkeys, and prosimians?
Why are some giants and others as small as a mouse?
What is the ecological niche that they support?
Click here to learn the difference between apes, monkeys, and prosimians.
Which PRIMATE is the largest? Which is the smallest?
This is about ALL primates including apes, monkeys, and prosimians.
The answers may or may not be in the video, but there are surely hints.
For comparison photos, go to the Primates At-a-Glance dropdown menu or the genus pages from the Primate Species Profiles dropdown menu. We’ll guide you to where to find them below.
Who are the largest and smallest monkeys? This is an opportunity to understand that all monkeys are primates, but not all primates are monkeys. Monkeys are very diverse. Where do they live? How do they live? Why are some very large and some very small?
Which MONKEY species is the largest? Which is the smallest?
This is about monkeys and does not include apes and prosimians.
The answers may or may not be in the video, but there are surely hints.
For photos to compare monkey sizes, go to the Primates At-a-Glance monkeys pages and/or monkey genus pages from the Primate Species Profiles dropdown menu. We’ll guide you to where to find them below.
Among monkey genera (plural of “genus”), there are some pretty wacky-looking noses.
Which species has the most unusual-looking largest nose and the most unusual-looking smallest nose?
Why? What’s the purpose of those unusual noses? How does this style of nose size set them up for success in their environment?
This exercise is about monkeys and does not include apes and prosimians. (All monkeys are primates, but not all primates are monkeys!)
The answers may or may not be in the video, but there are surely hints there.
For photos to compare, go to the Primates At-a-Glance monkeys pages and/or monkey genus pages from the Primate Species Profiles dropdown menu. Where’ll guide you to where to find them below.
To learn about the general differences in nose shapes between Afro-Eurasian monkeys and American monkeys, go to Primate Facts and scroll down to “New World and Old World Monkeys: What’s the Difference?”
Speaking of noses, here’s something you’ve probably never thought about: some primates have dry noses (like us, for example) and some have wet noses (like dogs and cats have). That’s pretty interesting! Why would that be? And who has what kind of nose? How does the wetness or dryness of their noses benefit them? What does it tell you about their vision or hearing abilities? What does it tell you about how they live? What does it tell you about how they perceive their world and everything in it?
Which primates have dry noses? What have wet noses? And why?
For this exercise, you don’t need to find the exact primate species. The common name for the family or genus is fine.
So, for example, it’s not necessary to refer to chimpanzees as their genus “Pan.” “Chimpanzees” works.
Another example, you don’t refer to tarsiers by their genus name “Tarsiidae.” “Tarsier” is fine. You also don’t need to note the exact species, like Philippine tarsier. The subject matter is generalized to the entire genus or family. This is because if a Philippine tarsier has a wet or dry nose, all tarsiers have the same.
Since primates having wet noses vs. dry noses is kind of an unusual category that most people may not realize is even a “thing,” we’re going to give you some hints.
The biological order “Primates” is divided into two groups or suborders:
- Strepsirrhini or wet-nosed primates
- Haplorhini or dry-nosed primates
What is a primate family vs. primate genus vs. primate species? See the chart below.
Click the button below to learn about the “biological order” of living organisms, including a diagram.
Most nonhuman primates, even the smallest, have hands that pretty much look and act like ours. We’d be lost without our opposable thumbs. Most apes, monkeys, and prosimians have opposable thumbs. What are opposable thumbs? Do the research to find a clear definition. What are the benefits to having opposable thumbs? For primates, its one of they keys to our success and survival in our habitats.
Some primates do NOT have opposable thumbs. When might it NOT be beneficial for primates to have thumbs that oppose like ours? Think about the way some animals are built to move through their habitats. Might opposable thumbs get in the way? Do they need opposable thumbs?
When might it be beneficial to not have thumbs at all? Or to have thumbs so small they stay out of the way? Think about that!
Most nonhuman primates have flat fingernails (like ours). A few have claws or a combination of some fingers with claws and some with flat fingernails. Who? Why? What are the benefits?
Some have “grooming claws.” Why would they need that? Who are those primates?
Some primates have webbing between their fingers or toes! (Sometimes humans have webbed toes.) Why might they need themt? What is the benefit of webbed toes? How might it benefit certain primate species?
Hands down, the craziest primate hands go to the aye-aye (Daubentonis). Their wacky long middle fingers swivel due to a ball-and-socket joint. Aye-ayes use their middle fingers to forage for grubs in trees—tapping on the bark and listening for wood-boring insects moving around beneath it. Look it up. You’ll want to see this!
In the diagram below, you’ll find a wide variety of primate hands with an equally wide variety of shapes.
Here are some things to consider:
- How do the primates live?
- Where do they live?
- Are they arboreal or terrestrial or both?
- How do they need to get around? How do they “locomote”?
- Do they climb? How? Do they climb trees, or do they climb rugged rock-faced cliffs?
- Do they leap? Different primates leap in different ways. How do they “take off”? How do they land? What hand shapes help them?
- Do they swing when they climb? What’s the best hand shape for swinging through the forest?
- Do they swim? Do they swim for pleasure or to escape predators?
- What do they eat? What are the best means of accessing that food?
Hint: If you’d like to learn more about primate locomotion, go to “Lifestyle Adaptation” and visit the “Do the Locomotion: Modes of Travel” exercise.
What other questions would you ask to determine the best hand shape for a primate species? Now, don’t just look up the primates in the video. There are over 500 primate species to choose from. Find others that you think are interesting and discover why their hands are shaped as they are.
For questions or comments, e-mail us at [email protected].