An Introduction to Primate Biology

 Author:  Kristin De Lucia

DisciplineLife Sciences 

 Grade Level: 7–8

 Created in 2002

 Duration: 2 hours

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This lesson is designed to correspond with units on human anatomy, especially skeletal biology. Students should already be familiar with basic human skeletal anatomy and should know some functional aspects of anatomy (i.e. diet may be reflected by type of teeth, etc.).

Primates are all members of the mammalian order Primates including prosimians, monkeys, apes and humans. Teachers may want to review different types of habitats and emphasize that primates are mainly adapted to tropical environments and are best adapted for arboreal living. Even though some primates spend the majority of their time on the ground, all primates spend some time in the trees, and most primates spend almost all of their time in the trees.


Students will learn why humans are classified as primates and what specific features we share with the other members of our Order. Students should also gain a better understanding of why human anatomy is the way it is, and realize that most of our abilities are a result of an ancestral arboreal lifestyle. This activity will foster an understanding of how organisms, including humans, are adapted to their environment and that anatomy is a reflection of these adaptations. Moreover, students will gain an introduction to methods (and difficulties!) of classification used by evolutionary biologists. The teacher should emphasize that non-human primates are not our ancestors, but are rather close relatives with whom we share common ancestors.

Keywords: Hands, Locomotion, Primates, Pre-adaption.


National Standards: 

Life Science Content Standard C

Diversity and adaptations of organisms.

Arizona State Standards:

Strand 1: Inquiry Process 

  • Concept 1: Analysis and Conclusions - PO 1, PO 2, PO 3, PO 5.

Strand 2: History and Nature of Science

  • Concept 2: Nature of Scienctific Knowledge - PO 2, PO 3

Strand 4: Life Science

  • Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptations and Behavior (Grade 8) - PO 1, PO 3 , PO 6. 


Lesson Plan (pdf / doc)
Worksheet 1 (pdf / doc)
Worksheet 2 (pdf / doc)

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