Muriqui Model

A muriqui monkey mother, infant and juvenile son are shown in their Brazilian forest habitat in 2011. According to new research by Karen B. Strier, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, it is the monkey mothers who pull the strings in muriqui society to the reproductive advantage of their male offspring. The mere presence of mothers and other maternal kin helps male offspring connect with the right females at the right time. (Photo by Carla B. Possamai)What is the Muriqui Model?

Karen Strier researched a rare species of spider monkey for many year in the Brazilian Amazon region. The Muriqui are an endangered species of primate that display fascinating behaviour that may serve as a (better) model for human civilisation. Ever since Darwin’s time we have this idea in our mind that chimpanzees may be the model for human behaviour and society, i.e. hierarchical and violent. However primate behaviour has great diversity as Strier’s research shows.

Muriquis have an egalitarian society, driven by equality of the sexes and ubiquitous fruit and leaf based food supply. What can we learn from this?

Another thing we can learn from Strier’s research is that population density plays a crucial role in behaviour too. No surprise here. Many species have a wide range of behaviours in their repertoire, selecting a specific behaviour depending on how many individuals of the same species are present through a mechanism called Quorum Sensing (ref. B. Bassler).