Time is our most precious commodity; there is never quite enough of it as there are a vast amount of tasks to complete in order to become successful. Despite this, as a species we have thrived, to the detriment of other species and to some extent, the destruction of our planet. Could this be due to our ability to time manage?
Other species are faced with ecological time constraints that limit an animal’s ability to survive in a given habitat, while determining the maximum size of its social group. Primates are a perfect example of this as, like us, many spend their lives in a large social groups and their time is divided into obvious chunks.
The most important activity for all animals is eating and this takes up the largest amount of time. For some animals this involves hunting, while in the example of primates it mainly consists of foraging. When vegetation is abundant and of high quality this activity requires less time whereas if vegetation is poor, foraging is less efficient and more time consuming. This leads to a decrease in time for socialisation, a vital activity for maintaining strong bonds within the group, as well as reduced time for resting.
The time spent resting is made up of two components. The first is enforced resting time and is imposed on the animal as a result of an ecological time constraint. In the case of primates, a temperature rise would lead to an increase in this enforced resting time. This is due to behavioural mechanisms that maintain core body temperature, by remaining relatively inactive the metabolism is lower and less heat is produced. The second is free resting time and is available for the allocation of ecologically functioning activities, such as mating and socialising.
Living in a social group provides animals with safety and protection. In some cases it also increases the time available for foraging, Meerkats have highlighted this. Not only do they take it in turns to act as a look out, they also have a specific call for danger in the air and danger on the ground. This specific call allows other members of the group to find shelter as quickly as possible, preventing too much time being lost.
However, there are disadvantages to living in social groups, intraspecific competition increases due to a limited amount of food and other resources available. It is because of this that each group has a size limit, determined by these limiting factors, as well as those such as nesting or breeding sites.
Maximum ecologically tolerable group sizes can be calculated for primates in different locations. In order to do this, research into climatic variables and group size must be conducted. Time must also be considered, and by studying this ecological constraint we can increase our understanding of distribution ranges in the fight against extinction due to climate change.