ANT 348K • Primate Sensory Ecology
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
Primate Sensory Ecology is a course designed for advanced undergraduates in physical anthropology and the biological sciences. This course provides an opportunity for detailed study of primate sensory systems from an ecological and comparative phylogenetic perspective. The core topics covered in this course are the special senses of hearing, vision, and smell, with a special emphasis on the adaptive and ecological significance of sensory adaptations in primates. For each of these senses, lectures and readings will provide a comprehensive review of the following concepts: 1) general anatomy and physiology, 2) development and genetic regulation, 3) functional morphology and mechanics, 4) neural control and regulation, 5) psychophysics, 6) biological role and behavioral ecology, 7) phylogenetic history and fossil record. Additional senses that will be covered in a less-comprehensive fashion include touch, taste, balance and equilibrium, and the Jacobson's organ.
In studying each sensory system, a strong emphasis will be placed on understanding the relationship between variant morphologies and behavioral capabilities. This dual focus on morphology and behavioral ecology will provide students with an explicit understanding of the effect that the functional design of a sensory system has on an organism's adaptive niche. All information will be presented within a comparative phylogenetic framework, so that evolutionary novelties (e.g., the haplorhine retinal fovea) can be understood in terms of the macroevolutionary processes responsible for the novel feature's appearance. This approach will further emphasize the importance of certain evolutionary changes in primate sensory systems as key innovations. Toward this end, discussions of current literature will cover a number of special topics in addition to the more basic aspects of sensory system morphology and function.