In the DFG research group entitled "Sociality and Health in Primates", scientists from Göttingen, Berlin and Leipzig investigate the effects that group living has on the health of wild lemurs, monkeys and apes. Initiator and spokesperson for the research group is Peter Kappeler, who has a joint professorship at the University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center (DPZ). The German Research Foundation (DFG) has provided financial support for the research group for a total of six years, starting in 2015.

The scientists of the research group investigate how aspects of sociality, such as social stress, friendships or group size, affect susceptibility the health of wild primates. The scientists study the social factors in great detail, measure physiological indicators of health and estimate the consequences of variable health for individual survival and reproductive success. Because it has been known for years that socially well-integrated individual baboons and humans live longer and have more offspring compared to socially stressed or isolated individuals, the focus on the physiological mechanisms that mediate these effects, but also the detailed behavioral and fitness data can make important contributions to this field of research.

In seven current research projects, scientists from the DPZ, the University of Göttingen, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) and the Robert Koch Institute (Berlin), examine the effects of social variables, such as group size, dominance rank or social support on different aspects and indicators of health and endocrine profiles. To this end, the scientists specifically measure stress hormones, parasite burden and physiological balance non-invasively in wild lemurs, baboons and chimpanzees. Other projects focus on the effects of aging or prenatal stress on health and sociality, the determinants of gut microbiome composition, and the relationships between social organization and the diversity of parasite and symbiont diversity.

 


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