Primatology: challenges and new frontiers of knowledge for the 21st century

More than a hundred experts will take part in the 8th edition of the Iberian Pri

More than a hundred experts will take part in the 8th edition of the Iberian Primatological Conference, to take place at the University of Barcelona, from October 5 to 8.

How have emotions evolved in non-human primates? How do they use technology to elaborate tools? What are the characteristics of their sexual behaviour? What is the conservation state of primates in the planet? How do sex roles affect the formation of social systems? How does primatology contribute to the knowledge of human evolution? These and other topics of scientific interest will be the focus of debate at the VIII Iberian Primatological Conference , which will gather about 120 participants at the University of Barcelona, from October 5 to 8, organised together with the UB Faculty of Psychology, the Spanish Primatological Association (APE) and the Portuguese Primatological Association (APP).

The conference is aimed at promoting the exchange of experiences between the different areas of primatology, apart from boosting the communication between the participants and promoting reflection and debate among the professionals of different disciplines such as psychology, biology and anthropology, among others. This scientific summit will open on Wednesday, October 5, at 10:00 a.m., in an institutional event to take place at the Paranimph of the Historical Building of the UB. Among the participants are the rector of the UB, Joan Guàrdia; the lecturer of the UB Faculty of Psychology and president of the conference, Ruth Dolado; the president of the Spanish Primatological Association (APE), Ana Fidalgo; and the president of the Portuguese Primatological Association (APP), Tânia Minhós.

Jordi Sabater Pi, a role model in primatology

"Jordi Sabater Pi. Passió per la vida, compromís amb la natura" is the title of the opening conference, given by Montserrat Colell, lecturer at the Department of Clinical Psycholoogy and Psychobiology of the Faculty of Psychology of the UB. The opening conference will be followed by a roundtable on the scientific figure of Sabater Pi (1922-2009), ethologist and UB emeritus professor as well as the scientific reference figure of the new edition of this conference. Among the UB experts to take part in the event are Montserrat Colell and Carles Riba, drawing teacher Oriol Sabater —Sabater Pi’s son— and the archaeologist margarida Genera i Monells.

Internationally recognized for his studies in ethology, primatology and African anthropology, Sabater Pí left an outstanding scientific legacy which can be consulted in the UB’s Sabater Pi Collection , managed by the Fine Arts CRAI Library, a compilation of the documentary collection of his scientific and graphic works, also popularly known for the discovery of the albino gorilla Snowflake. The opening conference and roundtable scheduled for Wednesday 5 in the Paranimph of the Historical Building are open to the public (but with limited room capacity).

Social behaviour, sexuality and technology in non-human primates

After the opening session, the other sessions will continue at the Faculty of Psychology of the UB, with a conference by Stephen D. Nash, professor at the Stony Brook University (United States). The renowed scientific illustrator —he has inspired the name of some primate species such as Callicebus stephennashi or Stephen Nash’s titi—, will give a lecture on the value of technical drawing as a research tool, under the title "Importance of Observational Drawing as a Research Tool: Jordi Sabater Pi and the Tradition of the Scientist-Illustrator".

Among other contents and presentations, the program includes the participation of Phyllis Lee, emeritus professor at the University of Stirling (United Kingdom) and expert on social cognitive development and behavioural ecology, who will speak on "Primate social evolution: individuals to groups to communities". Volker Sommer and Matilda Brindle, from the University College London, will address the evolution of social and sexual behaviour in primates in the lecture "Spanking the monkey. Form and function of primate masturbation".

Susana Carvalho, expert in evolution of technological behaviour and member of the University of Oxford (United Kingdom), is the author of the lecture "From Primate Archaeology to Primate Cultural Heritage: dispatches from a field primatologist". Iván Puga-González, member of the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE, Norway), will participate with the session "Agent-based models of primate social behaviour". Before the closing, the scientific writer Toni Pou —lecturer at the University of Vic and author of a biography of Sabater Pi based on his correspondence from Guinea— will make a gloss of the scientific relevance of the ethologist with the lecture "Letters from Africa: the passion and scientific activism of Jordi Sabater Pi". Finally, the conferencewill close with a visit of the participants to the facilities of the Barcelona Zoo.

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