My work explores the reproductive and life history strategies of males and females in mammalian societies using observational and experimental data, in the context of long-term, individually-based studies. My research has examined the evolution of sexual signals, mate choice, and multiple mating (polyandry) in females in natural populations of primates. I am currently focusing on female reproductive competition in polygynous societies where sexual competition has been traditionally studied from a male perspective, on the evolutionary causes and consequences of reproductive seasonality with a specific focus on its links to life-history and sociality, on sexual conflict in multimale-multifemale societies where males and females share long-term social bonds, as well as on social influences on development and immunity in both sexes.
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...
MHC variation in a wild lemur community
(co-supervised by P. Kappeler)
The Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) is a key component of adaptive immunity. MHC genes are exceptionally variable. Models and empirical data suggest that such diversity mirrors parasite diversity using single host systems. Eva's PhD work attempts to extend these models to the community level, where parasites are shared by multiple hosts. She works on 4 species of sympatric lemurs living in Kirindy, Western Madagascar.
Female reproductive competition in a polygynous society
(co-supervised by G. Cowlishaw & M. Raymond)
Intrasexual competition has been mainly studied in males, but recent work reveals that females may also compete over reproduction. Alice's PhD work examines the determinants and extent of female reproductive competition in chacma baboons, a polygynous primate where males compete fiercely over sex, and where female social relationships were long thought to be primarily structured by competition over food.
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.