JANUARY 29, 2020 — A UTSA researcher has discovered that, whether in a pair or in groups, success in primate social systems may also provide insight into organization of human social life.
Assistant professor Luca Pozzi in UTSA’s Department of Anthropology in collaboration with Peter Kappeler, a colleague at the German Primate Center-Leibniz Institute for Primate Research, investigated how different primate societies evolved and which factors may be responsible for transitions among them.
Their reconstructions showed that the evolution from a solitary way of life to group living usually occurred via pair living. Pair living thus served as a stepping stone for group living and therefore plays a key role in the evolution of social systems.
—LUCA POZZI, Assistant Professor in UTSA's Department of Anthropology
In the course of evolution, species had to adapt to changing environmental conditions, according to Pozzi. A crucial adaptation in this process is the modification of social behavior. About half of all primate species live in groups and around one third in pairs; the rest live solitarily.
Why these different forms of social complexity evolved, how many transitions among them occurred and which factors led to the transitions was analyzed on the basis of genetic data and behavioral observations of 362 primate species.
“Living as a pair represents an evolutionary puzzle in the evolution of mammalian social systems because males could achieve higher rates of reproduction if they did not bond to a single female,” says Pozzi.
Yet evolutionary biologists still struggle to find the advantages of pair living for males, according to Peter Kappeler, who is one of the lead researchers of the study.
At first glance the two current hypotheses on the development of pair living—the female distribution hypothesis and the paternal care hypothesis—seem to be mutually exclusive.
Yet results in this work indicate that the two factors may be complementary. Initially it was believed that an ecological change in the habitat led to female spatial separation and that solitary males, which previously had several females living in their territory, were subsequently only able to gain access to one female. Paternal care resulting from the pair formation in turn increased the survival probability of the offspring and thus reinforced pair living.
The further transition to group living was possible through an improvement of the ecological situation, which allowed related females to live in close proximity. These could then be joined by one or more males.
“However, the pair bond typical for humans within larger social units cannot be explained with our results, since none of our recent ancestors lived solitarily. Nevertheless, the advantages of paternal care also may have led to a consolidation of pair living in humans,” said Kappeler.
The research, “Evolutionary transitions towards pair living in non-human primates as stepping stones towards more complex societies,” was published in the December issue of Science Advances.
“The evolution of complex social systems in mammals, and more specifically in primates, is a challenging and exciting area of research. Our study shows that pair living—although rare—might have played a critical role in it,” says Pozzi
Come celebrate the doctoral students graduating this commencement season.H-E-B Student Union Ballrooms, UTSA Main Campus
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the College for Health, Community and Policy, College of Liberal and Fine Arts and College of Sciences.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
Celebrate the accomplishments of the graduates of the Carlos Alvarez College of Business, College of Education and Human Development, Margie and Bill Klesse College of Engineering and Integrated Design and University College.Alamodome, 100 Montana St, San Antonio, TX 78203
First Friday Stargazing gives anyone free access to the night sky using university telescopes and teaching equipment. Weather permitting, experienced astronomers will provide a handful of telescopes of varying designs, give training on how each operates, and point to various astronomical objects that may appear in the sky for that given time of the year. If you have a telescope and do not know how to operate it, feel free to bring it and get instructions on its use.4th Floor of Flawn Science Building, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.
UTSA is a proud Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) as designated by the U.S. Department of Education.
The University of Texas at San Antonio, a Hispanic Serving Institution situated in a global city that has been a crossroads of peoples and cultures for centuries, values diversity and inclusion in all aspects of university life. As an institution expressly founded to advance the education of Mexican Americans and other underserved communities, our university is committed to ending generations of discrimination and inequity. UTSA, a premier public research university, fosters academic excellence through a community of dialogue, discovery and innovation that embraces the uniqueness of each voice.