Intragroup Social Interactions
Quantifying the social structure of social species, by determining who interacts with whom and how often, can help to identify the benefits gained by group living and provide insight into the evolution of sociality. I examine intragroup patterns of spatial associations and affiliative and agonistic interactions, and how these are influenced by age, sex, and genetic relatedness, as well as other factors.
In order to investigate male and female reproductive strategies, I examined female estrogen and progesterone profiles to determine ovarian cycles and timing of ovulation. I mapped sociosexual behaviors, along with male androgen and glucocorticoid levels, onto the ovarian profiles to examine the relative importance of male mate guarding and female mate choice. This socio-endocrine study revealed several important insights into the biology, social system, and mating strategies of black howler monkeys that were not anticipated based on behavioral data alone.
Dispersal patterns - who disperses when, where and how - forms the backbone of a species' social organization because it influences the potential of kin-biased social interactions both within and between groups, as well as the overall genetic population structure, and thus the population viability. Based on data from multi-year demographic patterns, combined with data on genetic population structure, I examine male and female dispersal patterns in the black howler population at Palenque National Park, Mexico.