Unity in diversity: Lessons from macaque societies


  • Bernard Thierry

    1. Département Ecologie, Physiologie and Ethologie (IPHC), Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique, Université Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, France
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    • His research focuses on social organization and information transmission in nonhuman primates. He is the lead editor of the volume Macaque Societies: A Model for the Study of Social Organization, with coeditors Mewa Singh and Werner Kaumanns, published in 2004 by Cambridge University Press.


The macaque radiation is as old as the hominin radiation, approximately 7 million years. After Homo, Macaca has the widest geographical range among primates, and both of these genera are present in tropical and temperate regions as well. Whereas the single extant representative of the genus Homo diverged through processes of cultural diversification, extant species of macaques emerged through processes of evolutionary diversification. Macaque societies are characterized by profound unity and great diversity, and can best be described as variations on the same theme. To understand macaque variation and adaptation, we must take into account the processes that insure the persistence of their societies across generations and environments.