Demographic concepts and research pertaining to the study of wild primate populations


  • Richard R. Lawler

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    1. Department of Sociology and Anthropology, MSC 7501, Sheldon Hall, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA 22807
    • Department of Sociology and Anthropology, MSC 7501, Sheldon Hall, James Madison University, Harrisonburg VA, 22807
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Demography is the study of individuals as members of a population. The dynamics of a population are determined by collectively analyzing individual schedules of survival, growth, and reproduction. Together, these schedules are known as the vital rates of the population. The vital rates, along with dispersal, contribute to population structure, which refers to how the population is organized by age, sex, density, and social groups. I briefly review the history of anthropological demography as it pertains to wild primates and then I discuss basic demographic concepts and approaches for studying wild primate populations. I then turn to demographic studies of wild primate demography. Primates are generally characterized by high adult survival probabilities relative to survival at other age/stage classes and most primate populations have population growth rates near equilibrium. Changes in adult survival have the greatest impact on population growth rate (i.e., fitness) relative to other demographic traits such as juvenile/yearling survival or age at first reproduction. I discuss how these demographic patterns, and others, connect to topics and issues in behavioral ecology, life history theory, population genetics, and conservation biology. These connections help reaffirm the fact that the vital rates are both targets and agents of evolutionary change. In this regard, demographic studies of wild primates provide a critical link between the proximate socioecological processes that operate in a species and the long-term phylogenetic patterns that characterize a species. Yrbk Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.