Fall 2013

Instructor: Barbara Welker                                                    Office: Fraser 118, Lab:  Fraser 116

Telephone:  245-5204     email:        Office hours: W 2:30-3:30, F 11:30-1:30


Course description:

This seminar-format course is an in-depth examination of the adaptive significance of and observed variability within and among primate social systems.  Increasingly, researchers realize that long-held views of primate social organization are narrow and that more variability exists than was previously recognized.  The local ecology/environment is responsible for much of the variability but researchers are questioning the relevance of type-casting species wherein variability exists. 

We will be using a reading list of primary literature so as to cover the latest theory and research on the subject.  The first week will cover an overview of the theories regarding the evolutionary and ecological significance of primate social organization form and function.  The course is then divided into six two-week sections, each corresponding to a recognized category of primate social organization.  Students will take turns conducting research for each of the weeks/sections (e.g. primate and non-primate inter- and intraspecies species variability).  They will present their research on the aforementioned topics prior to general discussion of the assigned readings each week.

Prereq ANTH 233: Primates




1.  Students will demonstrate their knowledge of primate social organization by completing assigned readings prior to each presentation/discussion period, submitting relevant questions/comments/topics for discussion (Note: multiple topics for each reading are expected) for each class based upon the readings, and participating in mandatory discussions. 

2.  Students will demonstrate competency in conducting advanced literature reviews by meeting with the instructor to discuss the searches they are conducting and the articles they have obtained, sorting through the literature, and selecting articles that will further their understanding of their particular topics. Through this process they will learn to critique articles for their value on a variety of levels. 

3.  Students will demonstrate competency in their ability to synthesize and organize their research into a comprehensive and cohesive overview of the topical areas.  They will demonstrate this ability based on their literature search/review/synthesis, via their presentations, discussions, and by submitting an outline that could suffice for a chapter in an edited volume on their topic of interest. 

4. Students will demonstrate their preparation for graduate school courses in physical anthropology by their participation in this advanced research-oriented seminar.


Course requirements:


Individual Research Project

25%  Theory presentation and Discussion leadership

25%  Case studies presentation and Discussion leadership

25%  Chapter outline (due by date indicated on syllabus)


25%  Class Participation (~2 pt/day)


Presentation:  1 hr in length– ~20 references cited/submitted – they do not all have to be primate literature


Discussion:  ~75 min in length-You will be the leader of the discussion so you must have topics prepared and distributed prior to class, primarily based on readings


Chapter Outline:  The outline will serve as the foundation for a publishable book on the subject.  It should thus be exhaustive, in terms of the literature review.  You will have ~50 references and they must be cited throughout the outline. Your outline will conform to the following guide:

            Part I – Description of social organization and theories regarding its evolutionary and ecological


Use introduction to articles and Muhlberger’s M.A. thesis as a guide.

            Part II – Case studies of all primate species exhibiting that type of social organization and all observed

deviation/variability within those species and possible explanations for said variability.

-Provide separate section for each species

-Briefly provide general information of each species’ and their social system and then more

detailed information on where/why variability is seen.


Class participation will be assessed via in-class participation every class.  This is an approximate rubric for how you will be graded:  Students will earn 1 point per week for active involvement in discussions and 1 point per week for preparedness based on the quality of the questions/comments/topics that they bring to class for discussion.


Please note:  SUNY Geneseo will make reasonable accommodations for persons with documented physical, emotional, or cognitive disabilities.  Accommodations will also be made for medical conditions related to pregnancy or parenting.  Students should contact Dean Buggie-Hunt in the Office of Disability Services ( or 585-245-5112) and their faculty to discuss needed accommodations as early as possible in the semester.


Assigned Readings are available on the course website by topic - you must prepare topics for discussion on each of readings to be submitted in class.


Week/Date                             Topics:                                                                      

1               8/28           Introduction, get-together, assignments

2               9/4             Primate social organization

3               9/11           Monogamy Theory – Part I outline due 9/25

4               9/18           Monogamy Case studies - Part II outline due 10/2

5               9/25           Polyandry – Part I outline due 10/9

6               10/2           Polyandry Case studies - Part II outline due 10/16

7               10/9           One-male – Part I outline due 10/23

8               10/16         One-male Case studies - Part II outline due 10/30

9               10/23         Polygynandry – Part I outline due 11/6

10             10/30        Polygynandry Case studies - Part II outline due 11/13

11            11/6           Fission-fusion – Part I outline due 11/13

12            11/13         Fission-fusion Case studies - Part II outline due 11/20

13            11/20         Age-graded multi-male and case studies – Parts I and II outlines due today


1st revision of chapter outline due on/before 11/27


14            11/27         THANKSGIVING                                                                                                    

15            12/4           Critique of chapter outlines

16            12/11         6:45  Submission of and discussion of 2nd chapter outline revisions