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Studying mammals: The social climbers

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Monkeys have long fascinated us because of their similarities to the human race. In this free course, Studying mammals: The social climbers, you will find out about some of the characteristics that make them so like us: their physiology, complex social interactions, large brains and intelligence. This is the ninth course in the Studying mammals series.

After studying this course, you should be able to:

  • identify the charactistics of primates and explain the main differences between the two suborders, prosimians and anthropoids
  • describe the detection of colour and estimation of distance in primates and explain the advantages of stereoscopic trichromatic vision
  • discuss the various types of communication seen in anthropoids and explain how playback experiments contribute to understanding vocal communication
  • compare and contrast adaptations in primates with adaptations in other mammals
  • compare and contrast how species reduce the risk of predation and avoid competition with other species.

By: The Open University

  • Duration 10 hours
  • Updated Wednesday 16th March 2016
  • Introductory level
  • Posted under Natural History
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Studying mammals: The social climbers


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In this course we will focus on the Anthropoidea, a suborder of primates that includes monkeys, apes and humans. We will concentrate our attention here primarily on monkeys. Colour vision, a large brain and intelligence are of great importance in the lives of anthropoids, enabling them to eat foods inaccessible to many other animals and to exploit social situations. In this course, we will be looking at characteristics of primates that differ, or are enhanced, in anthropoids and discussing these attributes in relation to the evolution of the large anthropoid brain and the evolution of humans.

This is the ninth in a series of units about studying mammals. To get the most from these units, you will need access to a copy of The Life of Mammals (2002) by David Attenborough, BBC Books (ISBN 0563534230), and The Life of Mammals (2002) on DVD, which contains the associated series of ten BBC TV programmes. OpenLearn course S182_8 Studying mammals: life in the trees contains samples from the DVD set. You should begin each course by watching the relevant TV programme on the DVD and reading the corresponding chapter in The Life of Mammals. You will be asked to rewatch specific sequences from the programme as you work through the course.

This OpenLearn course provides a sample of level 1 study in Environment & Development [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

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