Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life of Mammals – Social Climbers

by GARCIA, Edwin Joseph S.

We’ve always classified ourselves as the superior species, but little do most of us know, other mammals actually behave almost the same way that we do.

                Monkeys and apes, who are said to be our ‘closest relatives’, have the richest social life of all mammals. Like us, they spend their time establishing relationships with one another and, quite surprisingly, climbing the social ladder.

                Different kinds of monkeys can coexist with one another because they have different living patterns and eat different kinds of food; for example, Sakis and Sooty Mangabeys have special teeth and powerful jaws respectively that allow them to eat and break open tough foods, while Red Colobi have special stomachs that allow them to eat unripe fruits and leaves. On the other hand, spider monkeys have long limbs and grasping tails that allow them to reach hard-to-get food, and Pygmy Marmosets, being the smallest monkeys, can get food that even spider monkeys cannot. Dourocoulis, on the other hand, are the only nocturnal type of monkeys, and as such, they have can roam the forests at night without interfering with other monkeys. Aside from having different eating patterns which allow them coexist with one another, different kinds of monkeys help each other detect threats and have specific sounds (signal) for different predators.

                Of course, similar species also have a unique way of living with each another. The color of the faces of Uakaris indicates social position, while different kinds of Capuchins also come in different colors, and the colors acts as a social status symbol. Baboons, on the other hand, have established groups among themselves, and it is difficult for a new baboon to join one. Contrary to other kinds, Geladas and Toque Macaqs have distinct class systems among themselves. Higher ranking Toque Macaqs can get food from lower ranking ones even right out of their mouths. Geladas fights alpha males in order to attain higher positions. Geladas also have to live in large groups, thereby making them the kinds of monkeys who live in largest groups. Geladas have the ‘vocal grooming’ that make them seem that they are chatting with one another. The Geladas also have unique speaking traits, such as lip flipping which indicate that they are challenging other Geladas to a fight. The Toque Macaqs, on the other hand, attract mates by fluttering eyelids and flashing teeth.

                Scientific studies show that monkeys with larger brains tend to have larger groups. These monkeys generally are able to live in groups because they have a way to communicate with one another.
                It’s quite interesting to know that we and other species behave not so differently. Just like us, they use sound and body languages to send messages to one another. They also have some sort of hierarchy, which is amusing. There is even some discrimination based on color! Overall, their social capabilities are much like ours and I believe that someday, they would surprise us by evolving into something like us.

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