A Celebration of 150 Years of Darwin’s Publication of ‘On The Origin of Species’

As this is the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s publication of  ‘On the Origin of Species’, I’ve taken the opportunity to pay a small tribute both to Darwin and his important work. For the past year, in my spare time i’ve been filming primates in various locations. As evolutionary psychiatry is an emerging and potentially important area (see review here), I thought it useful to gain some insights. This is a work in progress and will be updated periodically.

Darwin himself wrote about parallels between humans and other species in his work on the emotional expressions of man. More importantly he noted in 1838

He who understands Baboons would do more to metaphysics than Locke

Primatology is an area with which I am not familiar and so I have approached this as an amateur. However through the process I have come to learn a little more about primates and developed both a respect and a fondness for these creatures. I have also begun to gain some potential insights which might be transferable to human psychology. Brune and others have outlined a broad theoretical underpinning for evolutionary psychiatry. The hypothetical behaviour of humans in recent history based on reconstruction of archaelogical findings poses the obvious difficulty that behavioural inferences are speculative. Nevertheless the study of primates offers the possibility that behaviours can be witnessed at first hand. The major difficulty with attempting to draw inferences about humans from these observations is that a considerable period of time has elapsed since our divergence from other primates. Take our nearest relatives, the chimpanzees. We have diverged some 6 million years ago. Within this period of time it would be surprising if the chimpanzee had not evolved considerably. This is supported by recent findings. The discovery of Astrolipithecus Ramadus suggests that Chimpanzee hands are more evolved than human hands since they have had more time to evolved. Furthermore experimental evidence suggests that Chimpanzee working memory is superior to humans which is demonstrated in this clip. The extreme time periods over which our species have diverged suggests that we can draw few reliable inferences on the basis of observations alone since we would then be assuming that the other species remains essentially unchanged since our divergence. Nevertheless once the sequencing of all primate genomes is complete and we have a better understanding of the genome differences, I would expect an iterative improvement in understanding the significance of behavioural similarities and differences. Thus I would predict that this field will move from being highly speculative to more realistic and supported by triangulation with data from other fields.

In the interim, I have captured the following footage which can also be accessed via the TAWOP channel on YouTube.


Ruffed Lemur (Black and White)







Ring-Tailed Lemur





Brown Lemur





Black Lemur


Red Ruffed Lemur



Pigmy Marmoset






Silvery Marmoset


Golden Lion Tamarin


Golden Headed Lion Tamarin


Emperor Tamarin



Cotton Top Tamarin



Colombian Spider Monkey


Squirrel Monkey



Rhesus Macaque








Roloway Monkeys


Diana Monkey

















Human-Like Behaviours

I have termed complex goal-oriented behaviours which resemble those seen in humans as human-like behaviours. The difficulty with drawing inferences about such similarities in complex behaviours are numerous. Nevertheless having a database of examples of such behaviours offers a starting point for further study. The existence of video sharing sites such as YouTube offers the possibility of rapid dissemination of such information as well as the possibility of establishing research networks.

Bonding Behaviour (Including Kissing-Like behaviours)

I was fortunate enough to have observed this Chimpanzee engaging in what superficially appears to be kissing. Examination of the footage on either side of this segment identifies that it is a continuation of the grooming behaviour that the Chimpanzee engages in both before and after. Nevertheless it does offer the speculative hypothesis that kissing exists in humans as a remnant of grooming behaviour in other primates. The significance of the loss of grooming behaviour in humans has also been considered elsewhere (see review here).



This clip of a gibbon is one of the most incredible pieces of primate footage I have seen. The gibbon is such a graceful mover but what is striking here is how this one gibbon has complete dominance from its higher position over several tiger cubs. Already we see what may be the rudiments of the ability to exhibit dominance over cats and by the end of the clip we see that the tiger cubs have moved out of the gibbon’s territory. Here we see another gibbon teasing a dog and again it’s quick reactions and use of a nearby tree mean that it has the advantage over the dog. There is other footage that I have observed which leads me to conclude that the gibbon engages in a strategy when it sees dogs or tigers that involves pulling the animal’s tail and then retreating quickly to the safety of a higher altitude which the dog or tiger cannot access. In one of the clips above, this seems to be done to protect the territory but in the other clip above it is unclear what the purpose of this behaviour is. The gibbon antagonises the dog and presumably removes itself rapidly from the scene in order to avoid the obvious consequences. However, if the gibbon did not engage in the initial behaviour it would have no cause to escape. Although the numerous clips of this behavioural strategy exist, this may constitute a selection bias which distorts the impression of the behaviour in these circumstances. Nevertheless there ought to be some explanation for these episodes and it is tempting to speculate that this may be an adaptation to the Gibbon’s environment where it  must adapt to dangerous predators in its native environment. If this is the case then it is either transmitted genetically or through observation of it’s parents or other group members.

Long Term Planning

This clip shows monkeys collecting and breaking nuts. They leave them for a certain period and return to complete the food preparation process. This entire process displays long-term planning as well as tool use.


A BBC clip of a tarsier hunting. This is one of the earliest primates and can be seen here engaging in intricate hunting maneouvres.


In this clip, a baby Chimpanzee appears to play with a Baboon although it may be more properly considered sparring. Two Gorillas are seen to be sparring in this clip. Their teeth are bared.

Theory of Mind

Although not a behaviour, I have grouped it here. This clip in my opinion displays that construct usually referred to as ‘theory of mind by a group of Chimpanzees. It is a most unfortunate clip as it results in the killing of other Chimpanzees and consequent cannabalism. Nevertheless in the build-up to this it is possible to see that the chimpanzees organise themselves as a group taking care to remain silent while lying in wait. It is difficult to know how this was achieved other than to suppose that the group had a shared understanding of what was to happen. How they knew to do this without a shared language suggests that they are able to communicate intent using a shared language and/or they had developed this strategy from hunting smaller primates where there is a lower risk from retaliation if there is a failed hunt.

Walking upright

These Bonobos are seen to walk upright. This Chimpanzee which is described as being in Uganda is seen to be walking upright through the grass.


You can follow ‘The Amazing World of Psychiatry’ Twitter by clicking on this link


You can listen to this post on Odiogo by clicking on this link (there may be a small delay between publishing of the blog article and the availability of the podcast).

TAWOP Channel

You can follow the TAWOP Channel on YouTube by clicking on this link


If you have any comments, you can leave them below or alternatively e-mail justinmarley17@yahoo.co.uk


The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


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