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  Primatology (as its Greek name suggests) is the study of the biology of the primates, the order of mammals which includes humans and our close relatives the monkeys and apes. This relationship to humans has stimulated intensive study of primates over the last century, but the similarity must always have been obvious, even before the relatively recent suggestion of genetic relationship. Galen (129 - 200 CE) dissected both men and monkeys, and was struck by their anatomical similarity. However, this was accepted by Galen and numerous other philosophers as pure coincidence until the Renaissance.

In the 17th century, the English anatomist Edward Tyson was the first European to have access to a true ape, a chimpanzee, which he dissected and compared anatomically with human cadavers. He thought that the ape was a pygmy human and was thus able to conclude that it was very similar to a human, without contradicting the popular view that humans were above classification as animals. In the 18th century, Linnaeus coined the term ‘primate’ and included humans in this group, along with monkeys, apes, bats and lemurs. However, it was not until some time after Darwin had published his ideas in the 19th century that it became routine to classify humans with the other primates.

During the past century there has been an intensive search for fossil evidence of humankind\'s primate ancestors—the so-called ‘missing link’. Modern primatology is less distinctive and concentrates on behavioural studies, though primates continue to be exploited to test technologies where human-like responses are required, but for which the use of human experimental subjects is considered unethical. RB

See also ethology; mammalogy; sociobiology.Further reading James Else, Primate Evolution; , Dale Peterson, The Deluge and the Ark.



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