My work explores the social, reproductive and life history strategies of males and females in mammalian societies from an evolutionary perspective. I use observational and experimental data, mostly in the context of long-term, individually-based studies, but I also conduct broad comparative approaches on mammals. My research has broadly examined the sexual and social relationships between males and females. I currently focus on the evolution of reproductive seasonality (with a specific focus on its links to life-history and sociality), on sexual conflict and social hierarchies in mammalian societies, as well as on social influences on development and immunity in both sexes. With Drs Guy Cowlishaw (Institute of Zoology) and Alecia Carter (University College London), I co-direct the Tsaobis Baboon Project, a long-term study monitoring the ecology, demography and behaviour of a wild population of chacma baboons in the Namib desert since 2000.
I have worked in several natural populations of mammals displaying diverse social systems. Currently, my main models (see below) are the large promiscuous groups of mandrills from Bakoumba, Gabon (a.) and of the Tsaobis baboons from Namibia (b.). I have also worked on the nocturnal, solitary mouse lemurs from Kirindy, Madagascar (c.), and on the cooperative family groups of the Kalahari meerkats (d.)
Projects & people
Here is a quick overview of the projects of my current students, but there is always more going on with my own stuff and collaborations...
Reproductive seasonality in social primates
(co-supervised by B. Godelle, G. Cowlishaw & M. Charpentier)
Reproductive seasonality does not always mirror climatic seasonality. Chacma baboons live in seasonal savannahs and breed year-round, while mandrills live in equatorial forests and breed seasonally. Jules' PhD work attempts to understand this paradox by investigating the evolutionary costs and benefits of breeding at different times of year in these two species, using long-term demographic data, fine-scale behavioural data and modelling approaches.
The evolution of reproductive seasonality across mammals
(co-supervised by B. Godelle)
Reproductive seasonality has been assumed to reflect climatic seasonality for most species. But the life history and social system of a species may also play an important role in its breeding calendar. Lugdiwine's work investigates the relative influence of climate, life history and sociality on the evolution of reproductive seasonality using a theoretical (modelling) and comparative approach.
Immunity and competition in a dimorphic primate
Serge Ely Dibakou
(co-supervised by M. Charpentier)
According to life history theory, animals that invest much energy in competing for reproduction may fail to maintain a strong immunity. Yet, fights for sex often cause lethal injuries and infections in male mammals, and compromising immunity may not be their best bet. Serge's PhD work asks whether males may keep investing into specific immune components that are crucial for wound-healing, while cutting investment into other components.