NCEAS Project 11003

Evolutionary ecology of primate life histories (funded jointly with NESCent)

  • Karen B. Strier
  • Susan Alberts

ActivityDatesFurther Information
Working Group5th—7th November 2009Participant List  
Working Group22nd—24th September 2011Participant List  

Primates are highly charismatic and often serve as flagship species in conservation efforts. They are also the closest living relatives of humans, and therefore hold the keys to resolving many questions about human evolution and ecology. However, the slow life histories of primates, combined with their complex social systems, their behavioral plasticity, and the challenging field conditions in which primate researchers must work, have severely limited analyses of mortality and fertility in wild, unprovisioned primate populations. This in turn limits both conservation efforts and comparative analyses that can shed light on the population dynamics and the social and ecological adaptations that have shaped both human and nonhuman primate evolution. We propose a Primate Life Histories Working Group to compare mortality and fertility schedules across taxa and evaluate a set of hypotheses about the evolution of mortality, and the relative importance to fitness of variation in fertility and survival rates. Using unique, individual-based life history data that have been collected from wild populations by eight working group participants over a minimum of 15 years, we will develop age-specific mortality and fertility schedules and create population projection matrices for each species. Our immediate goals are to test current hypotheses about the evolution of mortality, lifespan and reproduction, in order to advance our understanding of primate evolution. Our longer-term goal is to move toward a collaborative, shared databank housing irreplaceable life history data on primates. Many primate species are endangered or are under increasing anthropogenic pressure, and compiling these data is important both for conservation efforts and for scientific archives.

TypeProducts of NCEAS Research
Journal Article Alberts, Susan; Altmann, Jeanne; Brockman, Diane; Cords, Marina; Fedigan, Linda M.; Pusey, Anne E.; Stoinski, Tara S.; Strier, Karen B.; Morris, William F.; Bronikowski, Anne. 2013. Reproductive aging patterns in primates reveal that humans are distinct. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Vol: 110. Pages 13440-13445. (Online version)
Journal Article Bronikowski, Anne; Altmann, Jeanne; Brockman, Diane; Cords, Marina; Fedigan, Linda M.; Pusey, Anne E.; Stoinski, Tara S.; Morris, William F.; Strier, Karen B.; Alberts, Susan. 2011. Aging in the natural world: Comparative data reveal similar mortality patterns across primates. Science. Vol: 331. Pages 1325-1328.
Journal Article Morris, William F.; Altmann, Jeanne; Brockman, Diane; Cords, Marina; Fedigan, Linda M.; Pusey, Anne E.; Stoinski, Tara S.; Bronikowski, Anne; Alberts, Susan; Strier, Karen B. 2011. Low demographic variability in wild primate populations: Fitness impacts of variation, covariation, and serial correlation in vital rates. The American Naturalist. Vol: 177(1). Pages E14-E28.
Journal Article Strier, Karen B.; Altmann, Jeanne; Brockman, Diane; Bronikowski, Anne; Cords, Marina; Fedigan, Linda M.; Lapp, Hilmar; Liu, Xianhua; Morris, William F.; Pusey, Anne E.; Stoinski, Tara S.; Alberts, Susan. 2010. The Primate Life history database: A unique shared ecological data resource. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. Vol: 1. Pages 199-211.