Laboratory Procedures for Primate Observations

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Laboratory Procedures for Primate Observations

Laboratory Procedures for Blood Typing

This lab differs from the others in that it is conducted in the natural setting of the species being

observed. Plan your time well; it takes longer than you think.

You may observe primates at a zoo or human primates on campus (if social distancing is

possible), or use a primate webcam.

Here are some webcams:

  • Animal Planet Live (Golden Tamarins):
  • Highline Wildlife Park (Scotland) (Snow Monkeys):

  • Houston Window Cam (Chimp):
  • Houston Habitat Cam (Gorilla):
  • San Diego Zoo Ape Cam:
  • San Diego Zoo Baboon Cam:
  • Blank Park Zoo List of Live Webcams:
  • A global collection of ape cams:
  • More monkeys:
  • Search for others; key words: primate, webcam, cam


1) Blank paper (graph paper or lined paper)

2) Clipboard or notebook

3) A watch (preferably digital)

4) All the checklists

Optional Equipment

1) Ruler (particularly if you do not have graph paper) 2) Binoculars or opera glasses (primates may be housed a distance away-for example, on an


3) Camera or video camera 4) Tape recorder

Some general comments before you begin this exercise

1) You are welcome to visit a local zoo, locate an online observation site, or to choose human primates as you subjects (see Appendix A).

  1. Plan. b. I have often heard from students who did not know that the primates were not on exhibit

on a particular day or who were rained out.

  1. I suggest you call the zoo to determine their schedule. d. If you get to the zoo and there are no primates, look around for those humans!

2) Never, I mean never, go to a locale where the great majority of primates are under the human

Primate Observations Procedures 2

age of 18 years (i.e.; a school playground).

3) Always explain to human subjects what you are doing, if asked. 4) Try not to be obvious in your observations. You do not have time to habituate your subjects,

so blend into the background

Success in conducting this research depends upon closely following instructions. Careful

organization allows you to assemble your data collection easily, and will make for more feasible

evaluation of your work by your instructor. Read over the entire lab to be sure the instructions

are clear before you begin observing and collecting data.

Part 1:

Determine the primate species’ classification, characteristics and geographic distribution

Begin your primate observations with some general data collection. Complete Part 1, sections A

through D, which are found in the Data Collection handout BEFORE you conduct your

observations. For Sections A, B, C you may have to consult the Internet or a textbook.

Part 2:

Systematic Primate Observations

You will choose one species of primate at the field site and apply three different data collection

techniques to that species: ad libitum, instantaneous sampling, and scan sampling. An important

objective is to learn to distinguish which sampling methods are best for which species and/or


  1. A) Ad libitum sampling (use handout provided) — 30 minutes (minimum)

In the ad libitum, or ‘diary approach,” record all behaviors for all animals. You will differentiate

the various types of primates at the field site and record some basic information on their physical

and behavioral features, as well as facts on ecology and distribution from the zoo signs

(supplemented by information from other sources as needed). You will use basic observational

techniques to collect data.

On the “Ad Libitum Sampling” sheet, record your chosen primate species. You will spend one-

half hour collecting data on the study species, keeping a detailed running list of all behaviors

performed by all animals, including references to the time. For example:

From 11:32 to 11:35, the female groomed her own right leg while sitting on a tree

limb. She was sitting and held the leg in her left hand and groomed with her teeth and

left hand. She was solitary in this activity.

At 11:35, she got up, descended from the tree. Quadrupedally walked over to the

male, and sat down one foot away from him. She solicited grooming from the male

by holding out her hand, making the request vocalization and presenting her back to

the male. He ignored her request.

Detail is important. If your animals are inactive, even more specificity is needed. For example,

instead of “The male sat for 10 minutes, and the female stood nearby,” you might write

something like:

Primate Observations Procedures 3

Beginning at 3:27, the male sat still on his haunches on the ground, looking forward;

licked lips, rolled eyes.

At 3:29 he closed his eyes and rested for 2 minutes, at times twitching his left little

finger. At the same time, the female was standing quadrupedally, watching me.

  1. B) Focal animal instantaneous sampling

Focal animal instantaneous sampling method is really a combination of two different techniques

that are useful for collection (and later analysis) of data on several variables at once.

1) In instantaneous sampling data are recorded at predetermined intervals (e.g., every 30 seconds, or every 2 minutes).

2) Focal animal sampling allows the observer to concentrate and collect data more accurately on the behavior of one individual at a time.

Phase 1:

Construct your ethogram and data sheet

An ethogram (also called a behavioral taxonomy) is a catalog of the behaviors in the behavioral

repertoire of a species (see Appendix B). For this lab, the ethogram is recorded on the local

animal instantaneous sampling checklist.

Using the data gleaned in the ad libitum observations, include only the behaviors that you

observed and complete the checklist using each of the following categories

  • Context is general activity, such as feeding, resting, and so forth.
  • Position is the physical orientation such as sitting, walking, leaping and so forth.
  • Social behaviors include grooming, eating, fighting, etc.
  • Substrate is the term used to indicate location, such as branch, ground, and so forth.

Take care to make your behavioral categories mutually exclusive. This means that each behavior

should be defined so it is distinguishable from all other behaviors, because you will be recording

only one behavior at a time. For example, if an animal is sitting and grooming, you must decide

whether to record “sitting” and “grooming” as separate codes or devise a category that considers

both sitting and grooming. You must be clear in your definitions.

Phase 2: Use of local animal instantaneous sampling checklist — 30 minutes (minimum)

You may modify the data sheet to include behaviors you noted during your new observations.

  1. For the focal animal instantaneous sampling method, collect either data for at least one-half

hour, using the data check sheet provided, or one you devised. Collect data at 2-minute intervals.

This is your time interval.

  1. Choose your focal animal. Data collection is more interesting and instructive if you choose

one that is exhibiting some behavior other than sleeping.

Primate Observations Procedures 4
  1. If you have a watch that can be set to beep at 2-minute intervals, set it now. Fill in the

information at the top of the data sheet, note the starting time, and then wait for the 2-minute


  1. Exactly 2 minutes after the starting time, jot down on the data sheet what your focal animal is

doing, along with the code for the observed behavior. This will have been your first sample

point. Continue for at least another 28 minutes.

Keep in mind that in this method you will not be listing all behaviors during the entire sample

interval, only that which occurs at the instant of the sample point. Thus, only one behavior is

listed at every sample. (This is one reason for making categories mutually exclusive.) If a

behavior you observe is not listed, may add it to the data sheet and to the codes.

  1. C) Scan Sampling (Use the checklist provided to complete this component of the lab) — 30

minutes (minimum)

In scan sampling, the general activity for all animals in the exhibit is recorded simultaneously, at

predetermined intervals. This method is used either to record general categories of behavior or to

focus attention on only one or two specific types of behavior to the exclusion of all others.

As in focal animal instantaneous sampling, you will be taking data only at the sample point

between the sampling intervals. Use 2-minute samples for this technique as well. An example is

provided at the back of the data sheet.

These techniques can be modified to best answer your research questions and allow you to

acquire the most accurate data. The data sheets included are offered for your use or as models for

your own. Whatever technique is used, researchers must state their methodology so other

researchers can usefully compare the results to their own data.

Name _______________________________________________________________ Anthropology &215

Data on these pages are to be completed during the 2-hour laboratory conducted outside of class.

For each, use X if completed, P if partially completed, and 0 if not attempted.

___ Part 1 (4 points) ___ Focal Animal Instantaneous — Phase 1 (4 points)

___Ad Libitum (4 points) ___ Focal Animal Instantaneous – Phase 2 (4 points)

___ Scan Sampling (4 points)

Part 1: Background data on species

  1. Common name and scientific name of primate (0.5 points)

Below, write the common name and the scientific name. The proper way to write a scientific name is to

either italicize (if using the computer) or underline both the genus and species names (and subspecies if it

has one), capitalizing only the first letter of the genus name (for example, Saguinus oedipus).

Common name: ______________________________________________________

Scientific name: ______________________________________________________

  1. Classification (0.75 points)
  2. To which suborder does the primate belong (Strepsirhini or Haplorhini)? How can you tell which

suborder, by looking at the individuals before you? (What features are observable to you that indicate its


  1. To what infraorder does the species belong? _______________________________
  2. To which superfamily does the species belong? _____________________________
  3. Habitats, geographical distribution (0.5 points)
  4. In what kind of habitat is the primate generally found? (e.g., savanna, rainforest). Describe in detail.
  5. Where is the primate found geographically? (continent, region)
  6. Observed features and behaviors (2.25 points)
  7. What is the primate’s body size? (Compare it to commonly seen animals, or approximate body weight,

if known.)

  1. Look at its hands. Is there anything unusual about the fingers or thumb? How similar or different do

they appear compared to the hands of another primate? (Hint: Look at fingernails and opposability of


  1. Does this primate have a tail? If so, is it prehensile (grasping)? What does the tail do, even if non-

prehensile? How long is the tail in relation to its body length?

  1. What is its primary mode of locomotion (how does it move around)?
  2. How many individuals are at the field site, and how old do they appear to be? How many are males

and how many females?

  1. Is this a sexually dimorphic species? (In sexual dimorphism, males and females may have different

body sizes.)

  1. Describe the primate’s pelage (coat).
  2. Are the primates feeding? If so, what are they eating?
  3. Observe the animals in the exhibit for about five minutes, and describe some behaviors you see.

Ad libitum sampling (4 points)

Species: ______________________________ Date: ________________________

Conditions: ___________________________ Starting Time: _________________

Phase 1:

Focal animal instantaneous sampling checklist

(4 points)

(Do not duplicate codes listed in examples; create your own from observations in ad libitum sampling)

Context: Social behavior:

Positions: Substrate:

Phase 2:

Focal animal instantaneous sampling

(4 points)

(use 2-minute intervals and the codes you created in Phase 1)

Species: ______________________________ Date: ________________________

Conditions: ___________________________ Focal animal description:

Starting Time: _________________

Time Context1

Position Social Behavior Substrate

Food Type

(if feeding) Comments

















1 Denote as the general activity.

Scan sampling data check sheet

(4 points)

(use 2-minute intervals)

Species: ______________________________ Date: ________________________

Conditions: ___________________________ Starting Time: _________________

At each sample point, note down the number of individuals in the group that are feeding, those that are

resting, traveling, or engaging in social behavior.

Time # Feeding # Resting # Traveling # Social Total


















Example of the focal animal instantaneous sampling checklist

(Do not duplicate these codes; create your own)

Context: Social Behaviors:

F Feed: lncludes foraging (searching for food),

ingesting (getting food into mouth), and


P Play

T Travel: Moving from one area of the exhibit to


H Hug

S Social: Interacting with another individual of

its species.

Gr Groom (other)

R Rest: In a stationary posture for at least 10

seconds after time interval begins.

P Play (specify how)

Positions: T Threaten

Si Sit C Chase

St -b Stand bipedally M Mounting

St – q Quadrupedally O Other

Li Lie Substrate:

Cli Cling Br Branch

Qw Quadrupedal walk Sh Shelf

R Run G Ground

Le Leap F Fence

Clb Climb O Other

O Other (specify)

Example of the focal animal instantaneous sampling (Phase 2)

(use 2-minute intervals and the accompanying codes)

Species: Lemur catta Date: 9/21/20

Conditions: sunny, warm Focal animal description: Adult female

Starting Time: 2:12 p.m.

Context Food

(general Social Type

Time activity) Position Behavior Substrate (if feeding) Comments

2:12 R Si P Br

2:14 R Si Br

2:16 R Li P Sh

Had threatened a


2:18 T Qw BR

2:20 F Si G apple

2:22 F Si G potato

… Continue recording for 30 minutes

Example: Scan Sampling Data Check sheet

(2-minute intervals)

Species: Macaca mulatta Date: 9/25/06

Conditions: cloudy, cool, construction noise Starting Time: 2:32 p.m.

At each sample point, note down the number of individuals in the group that are feeding, those that are

resting, traveling, or engaging in social behavior.

Time # Feeding # Resting # Traveling # Social Total

2:32 / / / / / / / 7

2:34 / / / / / / / 7

2:36 / / / / / / / 7

2:38 / / / / / / / 7

… Continue recording for 30 minutes

Total 6 12 6 4 21

Post-Laboratory Exercise

1) This exercise can be completed outside of the laboratory. This part of the laboratory is worth 3 extra

credit points.

2) Use your observations and completed forms to help you answer the questions below:

  1. Based on the ad libitum observations, make a statement about the amount of time your primates spent

in various activities.

  1. Do the same for the focal animal instantaneous sampling method. With the number of observations as

your sample size, figure out the percentages of time spent (or, rather, samples observed) for each different

behavior. You may write this out in a simple list as shown here, or you may make a table for the results if

you wish-for example:

feeding 22%

sitting 10%

grooming 16%


  1. Figure out totals for the scan sampling technique.

Last Updated on June 9, 2020 by Essay Pro