AfricaNSFThe Research University (TRU)

Doctoral Dissertation Research: Grouping dynamics of lowland woolly monkeys: University of Texas at Austin

Anthony Di Fiore

[email protected]

Multilevel societies are some of the most complex social systems found in nature and have been identified in a wide array of taxa including elephants, cetaceans, birds, some species of non-human primates from Africa and Asia, and humans. However, little attention has been paid to possible examples of multilevel societies among New World primates. To resolve this gap and to provide additional insights into the causes and consequences of multilevel societies, the proposed research will focus on within- and between-group association patterns of woolly monkeys at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station (TBS) in Amazonian Ecuador. At TBS, woolly monkey groups may fission into small coordinated subgroups that persist for hours or even days, but similar to other multilevel societies, socially-cohesive groups may also coalesce into temporary supergroups that rest, travel, and forage together for several hours. Both of these patterns of behavior are reminiscent of human social systems. The project will contribute to long-term ecological, behavioral, and genetic datasets on an Amazonian research site of global biodiversity significance and will support the professional development of a female graduate student and research assistants.<br/><br/>Utilizing social network analysis, this project will quantitatively assess whether woolly monkeys form predictable grouping levels consistent with other multilevel societies. Additionally, behavioral data will be coupled with molecular genetic methods to investigate how range use, genetic relatedness, reproductive status, and attraction to others of the same age and/or sex class influence spatiotemporal associations. The proposed study represents one of the first investigations of the social dynamics of a New World primate from an explicitly multilevel perspective and promises to bring new insights to the understanding of sociality in humans and non-human primates. Additionally, by correlating genetic relatedness with social network structure, this project will provide a critical comparative dataset in which to examine the importance of kinship in maintaining affiliative relationships within and across social units.

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