Sociobiology and Disney’s Monkey Kingdom

Other simian primates have facial expressions, social structures, a system of mutually understood calls and movements, and a style of intelligence that’s eerily familiar. They have opposable thumbs and five fingers on each hand, which they use as we do. Many walk upright on two legs. They are awfully, almost uncomfortably, like us.” – Carl Sagan, “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors” p. 272

So I watched Disney’s Monkey Kingdom after reading about this…

The Macaque monkeys of Sri Lanka have a social structure and a number of traits that are very much human. An alpha male and his crew hold dominion over the rest of the group. There’s a middle class, and a low class that must scavenge food. They communicate with each other extremely well. They undeniably have personalities. Power struggles and subterfuge are quite common. The lower classes must groom and care for the upper class in various ways. Lowborn monkeys are walked on. Females may not copulate with anyone but the alpha. To do so would risk exile.

Studying primates is fascinating because it gives us insight into our own nature. It seems that mankind’s hierarchies developed from similarly evolving groups. Just how much of our social behavior is carefully reasoned, and how much is Simian nature? Regardless, it’s clear that the roots of tyranny go way back.

We share at least 95% of our DNA with the Macaque and more than 99% with Chimpanzees(1). We are considered a Simian primate.