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The creation and maintenance of primate diversity: a sensory ecology approach.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - 2:00pm
Earth Sciences 614

James P. Higham, Associate Professor, Dept. of Anthropology, NYU

An often-overlooked aspect of our order, the Primates, is just how radiational it is. Why have so many species of primate consistently been produced in relatively short periods of time? And why do they look so different, even when they’re closely related? Moreover, the mammals are generally a dull looking bunch. Most species are covered all over in cryptic grey, brown and black fur coats. Why are primates so colorful? Here, I explore the evolutionary mechanisms producing and maintaining variation both within and between species. I use our detailed studies of rhesus monkeys on Cayo Santiago to explore the mechanisms by which intra-specific variation is created and maintained, and our studies of guenons to explore inter-specific variation and adaptive radiation. To do this, I combine approaches from biological anthropology and behavioral ecology, computer vision, machine learning, endocrinology, functional and quantitative genetics, and comparative and experimental psychology. The evolution of the appearance of the Primate order is a complex tale of communication and perception, which has led to the evolution of the most colorful order of mammals to have ever lived. It represents a stunning example of the power and grandeur of evolutionary adaptation.

Free and open to the public.