The Implications of Primate Behavioral Flexibility for Sustainable Human–Primate Coexistence in Anthropogenic Habitats

Matthew R. McLennan, Noemi Spagnoletti, Kimberley J. Hockings

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)
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People are an inescapable aspect of most environments inhabited by nonhuman primates today. Consequently, interest has grown in how primates adjust their behavior to live in anthropogenic habitats. However, our understanding of primate behavioral flexibility and the degree to which it will enable primates to survive alongside people in the long term remains limited. This Special Issue brings together a collection of papers that extend our knowledge of this subject. In this introduction, we first review the literature to identify past and present trends in research and then introduce the contributions to this Special Issue. Our literature review confirms that publications on primate behavior in anthropogenic habitats, including interactions with people, increased markedly since the 2000s. Publications concern a diversity of primates but include only 17% of currently recognized species, with certain primates overrepresented in studies, e.g., chimpanzees and macaques. Primates exhibit behavioral flexibility in anthropogenic habitats in various ways, most commonly documented as dietary adjustments, i.e., incorporation of human foods including agricultural crops and provisioned items, and as differences in activity, ranging, grouping patterns, and social organization, associated with changing anthropogenic factors. Publications are more likely to include information on negative rather than positive or neutral interactions between humans and primates. The contributions to this Special Issue include both empirical research and reviews that examine various aspects of the human–primate interface. Collectively, they show that primate behavior in shared landscapes does not always conflict with human interests, and demonstrate the value of examining behavior from a cost–benefit perspective without making prior assumptions concerning the nature of interactions. Careful interdisciplinary research has the potential to greatly improve our understanding of the complexities of human–primate interactions, and is crucial for identifying appropriate mechanisms to enable sustainable human–primate coexistence in the 21st century and beyond.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-121
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


  • Anthropocene
  • Behavioral adaptability
  • Behavioral plasticity
  • Ethnoprimatology
  • Human-dominated landscapes
  • Human–wildlife interactions


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