Project Details


Evolutionary biologists have long argued that kinship was central to early human social groups, whereby relationships with relatives guided social interactions. Comparative studies of nonhuman primates have elucidated the adaptive significance of kinship. Such research has focused predominantly on maternal relatives, partly because many monkey groups are organized around matrilines of philopatric females, and partly because maternal relatedness is readily assigned through long-term observations of births. Certainly, however, individuals may be related through males too, but this phenomenon and its implications have been neglected due to the demands of determining paternal relatedness via direct genetic analysis. Recently developed noninvasive DNA sampling and population genotyping techniques now allow testing of hypotheses about the importance of paternal kinship. Through synthesizing behavioral and genetic data, this research addresses questions such as: 1) How do social interactions vary among paternal kin, compared to maternal relatives in a matrilocal society? (2) What benefits are gained through associating with paternal kin? and 3) What mechanism allows individuals to identify paternal kin? An 18-month field study conducted on two groups of olive baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis) in Kenya will address these questions. Behavioral data are gathered via focal animal sampling, and genetic relatedness is determined via non-invasive fecal sampling. In addition to advancing our understanding of paternal kinship, this research contributes to broader educational and scientific initiatives in two ways. First, while abroad, the investigator is collaborating with the local elementary school to develop a series of lessons to help educate local Kenyan youth about local ecology and wildlife from a scientist's perspective. Second, she works closely with the Laikipia Wildlife Forum (an organization which prioritizes conservation endeavors in the proposed study area), providing information on local wildlife and ecology, as well as maintaining positive relations with the local communities.
Effective start/end date9/1/108/31/12


  • National Science Foundation (National Science Foundation (NSF))


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