Jeanne Altmann

University of Nairobi, Nairoba, Nairobi Area, Kenya

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Publications (108)550.65 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Social integration and support can have profound effects on human survival. The extent of this phenomenon in non-human animals is largely unknown, but such knowledge is important to understanding the evolution of both lifespan and sociality. Here, we report evidence that levels of affiliative social behaviour (i.e. 'social connectedness') with both same-sex and opposite-sex conspecifics predict adult survival in wild female baboons. In the Amboseli ecosystem in Kenya, adult female baboons that were socially connected to either adult males or adult females lived longer than females who were socially isolated from both sexes-females with strong connectedness to individuals of both sexes lived the longest. Female social connectedness to males was predicted by high dominance rank, indicating that males are a limited resource for females, and females compete for access to male social partners. To date, only a handful of animal studies have found that social relationships may affect survival. This study extends those findings by examining relationships to both sexes in by far the largest dataset yet examined for any animal. Our results support the idea that social effects on survival are evolutionarily conserved in social mammals.
    Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 10/2014; 281(1793). · 5.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Many mammalian societies are structured by dominance hierarchies, and an individual's position within this hierarchy can influence reproduction, behaviour, physiology and health. In nepotistic hierarchies, which are common in cercopithecine primates and also seen in spotted hyaenas, Crocuta crocuta, adult daughters are expected to rank immediately below their mother, and in reverse age order (a phenomenon known as ‘youngest ascendancy’). This pattern is well described, but few studies have systematically examined the frequency or causes of departures from the expected pattern. Using a longitudinal data set from a natural population of yellow baboons, Papio cynocephalus, we measured the influence of maternal kin, paternal kin and group size on female rank positions at two life history milestones, menarche and first live birth. At menarche, most females (73%) ranked adjacent to their family members (i.e. the female held an ordinal rank in consecutive order with other members of her maternal family); however, only 33% of females showed youngest ascendancy within their matriline at menarche. By the time they experienced their first live birth, many females had improved their dominance rank: 78% ranked adjacent to their family members and 49% showed youngest ascendancy within their matriline. The presence of mothers and maternal sisters exerted a powerful influence on rank outcomes. However, the presence of fathers, brothers and paternal siblings did not produce a clear effect on female dominance rank in our analyses, perhaps because females in our data set co-resided with variable numbers and types of paternal and male relatives. Our results also raise the possibility that female body size or competitive ability may influence dominance rank, even in this classically nepotistic species. In total, our analyses reveal that the predictors of dominance rank in nepotistic rank systems are much more complex than previously thought.
    Animal Behaviour 08/2014; 94:87–99. · 3.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Reproduction is a notoriously costly phase of life, exposing individuals to injury, infectious disease, and energetic trade-offs. The strength of these costs should be influenced by life history strategies, and in long-lived species, females may be selected to mitigate costs of reproduction because life span is such an important component of their reproductive success. Here, we report evidence for two costs of reproduction that may influence survival in wild female baboons—injury risk and delayed wound healing. Based on 29 years of observations in the Amboseli ecosystem, Kenya, we found that wild female baboons experienced the highest risk of injury on days when they were most likely to be ovulating. In addition, lactating females healed from wounds more slowly than pregnant or cycling females, indicating a possible trade-off between lactation and immune function. We also found variation in injury risk and wound healing with dominance rank and age: Older and low-status females were more likely to be injured than younger or high-status females, and older females exhibited slower healing than younger females. Our results support the idea that wild nonhuman primates experience energetic and immune costs of reproduction and they help illuminate life history trade-offs in long-lived species.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 07/2014; 68(7). · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Signals of fertility in female animals are of increasing interest to evolutionary biologists, a development that coincides with increasing interest in male mate choice and the potential for female traits to evolve under sexual selection. We characterized variation in size of an exaggerated female fertility signal in baboons and investigated the sources of that variance. The number of sexual cycles that a female had experienced after her most recent pregnancy ("cycles since resumption") was the strongest predictor of swelling size. Furthermore, the relationship between cycles since resumption and swelling size was most evident during rainy periods and was not evident during times of drought. Finally, we found significant differences in swelling size between individual females; these differences endured across cycles (i.e., were not explained by variation within individuals) and persisted in spite of ecological effects. This study is the first to provide conclusive evidence of significant variation in swelling size between female primates (controlling for cycles since resumption) and to demonstrate that ecological constraints influence variation in this signal of fertility.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 07/2014; 68(7):1109-1122. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The development of non-invasive methods, particularly fecal determination, has made possible the assessment of hormone concentrations in wild animal populations. However, measuring fecal metabolites needs careful validation for each species and for each sex. We investigated whether radioimmunoassays (RIAs) previously used to measure fecal testosterone (fT) in male baboons and fecal estrogens (fE) in female baboons were well suited to measure these hormones in the opposite sex. We compared fE and fT concentrations determined by RIA to those measured by liquid chromatography combined with triple quadropole mass spectrometry (LC/MS/MS), a highly specific method. Additionally, we conducted a biological validation to assure that the measurements of fecal concentrations reflected physiological levels of the hormone of interest. Several tests produced expected results that led us to conclude that our RIAs can reliably measure fT and fE in both sexes, and that within-sex comparisons of these measures are valid: (i) fTRIA were significantly correlated to fTLC/MS/MS for both sexes; (ii) fTRIA were higher in adult than in immature males; (iii) fTRIA were higher in pregnant than non-pregnant females; (iv) fERIA were correlated with 17β-estradiol (fE2) and with estrone (fE1) determined by LC/MS/MS in pregnant females; (v) fERIA were significantly correlated with fE2 in non-pregnant females and nearly significantly correlated in males; (vi) fERIA were higher in adult males than in immature males. fERIA were higher in females than in males, as predicted, but unexpectedly, fTRIA were higher in females than in males, suggesting a difference in steroid metabolism in the two sexes; consequently, we conclude that while within-sex comparisons are valid, fTRIA should not be used for intersexual comparisons. Our results should open the field to important additional studies, as to date the roles of testosterone in females and estrogens in males have been little investigated.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 01/2014; · 2.82 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Women rarely give birth after ∼45 y of age, and they experience the cessation of reproductive cycles, menopause, at ∼50 y of age after a fertility decline lasting almost two decades. Such reproductive senescence in mid-lifespan is an evolutionary puzzle of enduring interest because it should be inherently disadvantageous. Furthermore, comparative data on reproductive senescence from other primates, or indeed other mammals, remains relatively rare. Here we carried out a unique detailed comparative study of reproductive senescence in seven species of nonhuman primates in natural populations, using long-term, individual-based data, and compared them to a population of humans experiencing natural fertility and mortality. In four of seven primate species we found that reproductive senescence occurred before death only in a small minority of individuals. In three primate species we found evidence of reproductive senescence that accelerated throughout adulthood; however, its initial rate was much lower than mortality, so that relatively few individuals experienced reproductive senescence before death. In contrast, the human population showed the predicted and well-known pattern in which reproductive senescence occurred before death for many women and its rate accelerated throughout adulthood. These results provide strong support for the hypothesis that reproductive senescence in midlife, although apparent in natural-fertility, natural-mortality populations of humans, is generally absent in other primates living in such populations.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 07/2013; · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: This article is part of a Special Issue "Puberty and Adolescence". The onset of reproduction is preceded by a host of organismal adjustments and transformations, involving morphological, physiological, and behavioral changes. In highly social mammals, including humans and most nonhuman primates, the timing and nature of maturational processes are affected by the animal's social milieu as well as its ecology. Here, we review a diverse set of findings on how maturation unfolds in wild baboons in the Amboseli basin of southern Kenya, and we place these findings in the context of other reports of maturational processes in primates and other mammals. First, we describe the series of events and processes that signal maturation in female and male baboons. Sex differences in age at both sexual maturity and first reproduction documented for this species are consistent with expectations of life history theory; males mature later than females and exhibit an adolescent growth spurt that is absent or minimal in females. Second, we summarize what we know about sources of variance in the timing of maturational processes including natal dispersal. In Amboseli, individuals in a food-enhanced group mature earlier than their wild-feeding counterparts, and offspring of high-ranking females mature earlier than offspring of low-ranking females. We also report on how genetic admixture, which occurs in Amboseli between two closely related baboon taxa, affects individual maturation schedules.
    Hormones and Behavior 07/2013; 64(2):240-9. · 3.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Intraspecific competition is a key factor shaping space-use strategies and movement decisions in many species, yet how and when neighbors utilize shared areas while exhibiting active avoidance of one another is largely unknown. Here we investigated temporal landscape partitioning in a population of wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus). We used global positioning system (GPS) collars to synchronously record the hourly locations of 5 baboon social groups for ~900 days, and we used behavioral, demographic, and life history data to measure factors affecting use of overlap areas. Annual home ranges of neighboring groups overlapped substantially, as predicted (baboons are considered non-territorial), but home ranges overlapped less when space use was assessed over shorter time scales. Moreover, neighboring groups were in close spatial proximity to one another on fewer days than predicted by a null model, suggesting an avoidance-based spacing pattern. At all time scales examined (monthly, biweekly, and weekly), time spent in overlap areas was greater during time periods when groups fed on evenly dispersed, low-quality foods. The percent of fertile females in social groups was negatively correlated with time spent in overlap areas only during weekly time intervals. This suggests that broad temporal changes in ecological resources are a major predictor of how intensively overlap areas are used, and groups modify these ecologically driven spacing patterns at short time scales based on female reproductive status. Together these findings offer insight into the economics of territoriality by highlighting the dynamics of spacing patterns at differing time scales.
    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 06/2013; 67(6):875-884. · 2.75 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Highlights ► We assessed the relationship between grooming behaviour, tick load and tick-borne infection in wild yellow baboons. ► Grooming played a role in reducing tick loads. ► Older, low-ranking individuals and males were most vulnerable to high tick loads. ► We also found that tick load affected packed cell volume, an indicator of health in this baboon population.
    Animal Behaviour 03/2013; 85(3):559–568. · 3.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Variation in the social environment can have profound effects on survival and reproduction in wild social mammals. However, we know little about the degree to which these effects are influenced by genetic differences among individuals, and conversely, the degree to which social environmental variation mediates genetic reaction norms. To better understand these relationships, we investigated the potential for dominance rank, social connectedness and group size to modify the effects of genetic variation on gene expression in the wild baboons of the Amboseli basin. We found evidence for a number of gene-environment interactions (GEIs) associated with variation in the social environment, encompassing social environments experienced in adulthood as well as persistent effects of early life social environment. Social connectedness, maternal dominance rank and group size all interacted with genotype to influence gene expression in at least one sex, and either in early life or in adulthood. These results suggest that social and behavioural variation, akin to other factors such as age and sex, can impact the genotype-phenotype relationship. We conclude that GEIs mediated by the social environment are important in the evolution and maintenance of individual differences in wild social mammals, including individual differences in responses to social stressors.
    Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences 01/2013; 368(1618):20120345. · 6.23 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Testosterone (T) is often positively associated with male sexual behavior and negatively associated with paternal care. These associations have primarily been demonstrated in species where investment in paternal care begins well after mating activity is complete, when offspring are hatched or born. Different patterns may emerge in studies of species where investment in mating and paternal care overlap temporally, for instance in non-seasonal breeders in which males mate with multiple females sequentially and may simultaneously have multiple offspring of different ages. In a 9-year data set on levels of T in male baboons, fecal concentrations of T (fT) were positively associated with both mate guarding ("consortship") - a measure of current reproductive activity - and with the number of immature offspring a male had in his social group - a measure of past reproductive activity and an indicator of likely paternal behavior. To further examine the relationship between T and potential paternal behavior, we next drew on an intensive 8-month study of male behavior, and found that fathers were more likely to be in close proximity to their offspring than expected by chance. Because male baboons are known to provide paternal care, and because time in proximity to offspring would facilitate such care, this suggests that T concentrations in wild male baboons may be associated with both current reproductive activity and with current paternal behavior. These results are consistent with the predicted positive association between T and mating effort but not with a negative association between T and paternal care; in male baboons, high levels of T occur in males that are differentially associating with their offspring.
    Hormones and Behavior 11/2012; · 3.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In many social species, competition between groups is a major factor proximately affecting group-level movement patterns and space use and ultimately shaping the evolution of group living and complex sociality. Here we evaluated the factors influencing group-level dominance among 5 social groups of wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus), in particular focusing on the spatial determinants of dominance and the consequences of defeat. When direct conflict occurred between conspecific baboon groups, the winning group was predicted by differences in the number of adult males in each group and/or groups that had used the areas surrounding the encounter location more intensively than their opponent in the preceding 9 or 12 months. Relative intensity of space use over shorter timescales examined (3 and 6 months) was a poor predictor of the interaction's outcome. Losing groups but not winning groups experienced clear short-term costs. Losing groups used the area surrounding the interaction less following an agonistic encounter (relative to their intensity of use of the area prior to the interaction). These findings offer insight into the influences and consequences of intergroup competition on group-level patterns of space use.
    Animal Behaviour 08/2012; 82(2):399-403. · 3.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Mating behavior has profound consequences for two phenomena--individual reproductive success and the maintenance of species boundaries--that contribute to evolutionary processes. Studies of mating behavior in relation to individual reproductive success are common in many species, but studies of mating behavior in relation to genetic variation and species boundaries are less commonly conducted in socially complex species. Here we leveraged extensive observations of a wild yellow baboon (Papio cynocephalus) population that has experienced recent gene flow from a close sister taxon, the anubis baboon (Papio anubis), to examine how admixture-related genetic background affects mating behavior. We identified novel effects of genetic background on mating patterns, including an advantage accruing to anubis-like males and assortative mating among both yellow-like and anubis-like pairs. These genetic effects acted alongside social dominance rank, inbreeding avoidance, and age to produce highly nonrandom mating patterns. Our results suggest that this population may be undergoing admixture-related evolutionary change, driven in part by nonrandom mating. However, the strength of the genetic effect is mediated by behavioral plasticity and social interactions, emphasizing the strong influence of social context on mating behavior in socially complex species.
    The American Naturalist 07/2012; 180(1):113-29. · 4.55 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In a wide range of taxa, including baboons, close social bonds seem to help animals cope with stress and enhance long-term reproductive success and longevity. Current evidence suggests that female baboons may benefit from establishing and maintaining highly individuated relationships with a relatively small number of partners. Here, we extend previous work on the stability of female baboons' social relationships in three different ways. First, we assess the stability of females' social relationships in two distinct and geographically distant sites using the same method. Second, we conduct simulations to determine whether females' social relationships were more stable than expected by chance. Third, we examine demographic sources of variance in the stability of close social bonds. At both sites, females' relationships with their most preferred partners were significantly more stable than expected by chance. In contrast, their relationships with less preferred partners were more ephemeral, often changing from year to year. While nearly all females experienced some change in their top partners across time, many maintained relationships with top partners for several years. Females that lived in smaller groups and had more close kin available had more stable social relationships than those that lived in larger groups and had fewer close kin available.
    Animal Behaviour 06/2012; 83(6):1511-1518. · 3.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Social status can have striking effects on health in humans and other animals, but the causes often are unknown. In male vertebrates, status-related differences in health may be influenced by correlates of male social status that suppress immune responses. Immunosuppressive correlates of low social status may include chronic social stress, poor physical condition, and old age; the immunosuppressive correlates of high status may include high testosterone and energetic costs of reproduction. Here we test whether these correlates could create status-related differences in immune function by measuring the incidence of illness and injury and then examining healing rates in a 27-y data set of natural injuries and illnesses in wild baboon males. We found no evidence that the high testosterone and intense reproductive effort associated with high rank suppress immune responses. Instead, high-ranking males were less likely to become ill, and they recovered more quickly than low-ranking males, even controlling for differences in age. Notably, alpha males, who experience high glucocorticoids, as well as the highest testosterone and reproductive effort, healed significantly faster than other males, even other high-ranking males. We discuss why alpha males seem to escape from the immunosuppressive costs of glucocorticoids but low-ranking males do not, including the idea that glucocorticoids' effects depend on an individual's physiological and social context.
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 05/2012; 109(23):9017-22. · 9.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Highlights ► We studied causes of variability in the mother–neonate relationship in wild baboons. ► The more experience a mother had, the more initiative her newborn infant exhibited. ► At each level of maternal experience, sons exhibited more initiative than daughters. ► Suckling by daughters was predicted from maternal rank and prenatal oestrogens. ► Our results suggest sex differences in primate life history emerge early in infancy.
    Animal Behaviour. 04/2012; 83(4):891–903.
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    ABSTRACT: In immature wild savannah baboons (Papio cynocephalus), we observed symptoms consistent with copper (Cu) deficiency and, more specifically, with a disorder referred to as white monkey syndrome (WMS) in laboratory primates. The objectives of this study were to characterize this pathology, and test three hypotheses that (1) Cu deficiency may have been induced by zinc (Zn) toxicity, (2) it may have been induced by molybdenum (Mo) toxicity, and (3) cumulative rainfall during the perinatal period and particularly during gestation is an ecological factor distinguishing infants afflicted with WMS from non-WMS infants. During 2001-2009, we observed 22 instances of WMS out of a total 377 live births in the study population. Visible symptoms exhibited by WMS infants included whitening of the animal's fur and/or impaired mobility characterized by an apparent "stiffening" of the hindlimbs. Occurrence of WMS did not vary significantly by gender. However, among individuals that survived at least 180 days, WMS males had a significantly lower survivorship probability than non-WMS males. Zn/Cu ratios assessed from hair samples of adult female baboons were higher in females who had produced at least one WMS offspring relative to females who had not had a WMS offspring. This was true even when the hair sample was collected long after the birth of the female's afflicted infant. We consider this potentially indicative of a robust tendency for low Cu levels induced by elevated Zn intake in some individuals. No significant differences of Mo/Cu ratios were observed. Cumulative rainfall during gestation (∼179 days) was 50% lower for WMS infants relative to non-WMS infants. In contrast, rainfall for the two classes of infants did not differ in the 180 days before conception or in the 180 days following birth. This finding highlights the importance of prenatal ecological conditions in healthy fetal development with regard to WMS.
    American Journal of Primatology 09/2011; 73(11):1160-8. · 2.46 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In social hierarchies, dominant individuals experience reproductive and health benefits, but the costs of social dominance remain a topic of debate. Prevailing hypotheses predict that higher-ranking males experience higher testosterone and glucocorticoid (stress hormone) levels than lower-ranking males when hierarchies are unstable but not otherwise. In this long-term study of rank-related stress in a natural population of savannah baboons (Papio cynocephalus), high-ranking males had higher testosterone and lower glucocorticoid levels than other males, regardless of hierarchy stability. The singular exception was for the highest-ranking (alpha) males, who exhibited both high testosterone and high glucocorticoid levels. In particular, alpha males exhibited much higher stress hormone levels than second-ranking (beta) males, suggesting that being at the very top may be more costly than previously thought.
    Science 07/2011; 333(6040):357-60. · 31.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Human senescence patterns-late onset of mortality increase, slow mortality acceleration, and exceptional longevity-are often described as unique in the animal world. Using an individual-based data set from longitudinal studies of wild populations of seven primate species, we show that contrary to assumptions of human uniqueness, human senescence falls within the primate continuum of aging; the tendency for males to have shorter life spans and higher age-specific mortality than females throughout much of adulthood is a common feature in many, but not all, primates; and the aging profiles of primate species do not reflect phylogenetic position. These findings suggest that mortality patterns in primates are shaped by local selective forces rather than phylogenetic history.
    Science 03/2011; 331(6022):1325-8. · 31.20 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

4k Citations
550.65 Total Impact Points


  • 2008–2014
    • University of Nairobi
      Nairoba, Nairobi Area, Kenya
    • Ripon College
      Durham, North Carolina, United States
  • 2000–2014
    • Princeton University
      • Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
      Princeton, New Jersey, United States
  • 1991–2013
    • National Museums of Kenya
      Nairoba, Nairobi Area, Kenya
  • 2012
    • University of Notre Dame
      • Department of Biological Sciences
      United States
  • 1977–2012
    • University of Chicago
      • • Department of Human Genetics
      • • Department of Ecology & Evolution
      • • Department of Psychology
      • • Committee on Evolutionary Biology
      Chicago, IL, United States
  • 2011
    • Iowa State University
      • Department of Ecology, Evolution and Organismal Biology
      Ames, IA, United States
  • 2001–2011
    • Duke University
      • Department of Biology
      Durham, NC, United States
  • 2010
    • University of Wisconsin, Madison
      • Department of Anthropology
      Madison, MS, United States
  • 2009
    • Case Western Reserve University
      Cleveland, Ohio, United States
  • 1991–2005
    • Stanford University
      Palo Alto, California, United States
  • 2003
    • University of California, Berkeley
      Berkeley, California, United States
    • University of California, Los Angeles
      • Department of Anthropology
      Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 2002
    • Institute of Primate Research
      Nairoba, Nairobi Area, Kenya
    • German Primate Center
      Göttingen, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • 1995
    • Harvard University
      • Department of Anthropology
      Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States
  • 1977–1993
    • University of Illinois at Chicago
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • 1986–1992
    • Chicago Zoological Society
      Chicago, Illinois, United States
    • The University of Arizona
      Tucson, Arizona, United States