Claudia Fichtel

Claudia Fichtel
German Primate Center | DPZ · Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit

PhD

About

163
Publications
49,415
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4,382
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 2004 - present
October 2003 - present
German Primate Center
January 2003 - September 2003
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Position
  • PostDoc Position

Publications

Publications (163)
Article
The endemic lemurs of Madagascar (Lemuriformes: Primates) exhibit great social and communicative diversity. Given their independent evolutionary history, lemurs provide an excellent opportunity to identify fundamental principles in the coevolution of social and communicative traits. We conducted comparative phylogenetic analyses to examine patterns...
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Full-text available
Animal vocalizations may provide information about a sender’s condition or motivational state and, hence, mediate social interactions. In this study, we examined whether vocalizations of gray mouse lemurs ( Microcebus murinus ) emitted in aggressive contexts (grunts, tsaks) co-vary with physical condition, which would underly and indicate honest si...
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We highlight current problems, challenges and dilemmas of conservation action in Madagascar, which is one of the poorest countries, but also the hottest global biodiversity hotspot. Consequences of climate change and the COVID‐19 pandemic exacerbate an already dramatic situation for many protected areas that are under pressure from illegal logging...
Article
Research on cognitive abilities in wild animals allows us to understand how they behave under ecologically and evolutionarily valid conditions. The combination of observational and experimental approaches in cognitive studies of wild lemurs revealed insights into their social and communicative strategies and the coevolution thereof. It also illumin...
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The relationship between age and reproductive performance is highly variable across species. Humans and some cetaceans exhibit an extreme form of reproductive senescence in that female reproduction ceases years or even decades before average life expectancy is reached. However, neither the existence of reproductive senescence in some taxa nor its a...
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Intergroup conflict is a major evolutionary force shaping animal and human societies. Males and females should, on average, experience different costs and benefits for participating in collective action. Specifically, among mammals, male fitness is generally limited by access to mates whereas females are limited by access to food and safety. Here w...
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Macroecological studies that require habitat suitability data for many species often derive this information from expert opinion. However, expert‐based information is inherently subjective and thus prone to errors. The increasing availability of GPS tracking data offers opportunities to evaluate and supplement expert‐based information with detailed...
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It has long been recognized that the patterning of social interactions within a group can give rise to a social structure that holds very different places for different individuals. Such within-group variation in sociality correlates with fitness proxies in fish, birds, and mammals. Broader integration of this research has been hampered by the lack...
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The extant primates of Madagascar (Lemuriformes) represent the endpoints of an adaptive radiation following a single colonization event more than 50 million years ago. They have since evolved a diversity of life history traits, ecological adaptations and social systems that rivals that of all other living primates combined. Their social systems are...
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How the presence of conspecifics affects scent mark deposition remains an understudied aspect of olfactory communication, even though scent marking occurs in different social contexts. Sex differences in scent-marking behaviour are common, and sex-specific effects of the audience could therefore be expected. We investigated sex differences in intra...
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Background Various aspects of sociality can benefit individuals’ health. The host social environment and its relative contributions to the host-microbiome relationship have emerged as key topics in microbial research. Yet, understanding the mechanisms that lead to structural variation in the social microbiome, the collective microbial metacommunity...
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Animals living in highly seasonal environments adapt their diets accordingly to changes in food availability. The gut microbiome as an active participant in the metabolization of the host's diet should adapt and change with temporal diet fluctuations, but dietary shifts can be short-term and, hence, difficult to detect in cross-sectional studies. T...
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Investigating factors influencing infant physical and social development is important to elucidate primate adaptations and life history evolution. Infant sifakas exhibit a puzzling mismatch between dental precocity and relatively slow postnatal growth, but only anecdotal reports of infant development are available for a comparative appraisal of the...
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The gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus), one of the world’s smallest primates, is thought to share a similar ecological niche and many anatomical traits with early euprimates. As a result, it has been considered a suitable model system for early primate physiology and behavior. Moreover, recent studies have demonstrated that mouse lemurs have com...
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Cognitive abilities covary with both social and ecological factors across animal taxa. Ecological generalists have been attributed with enhanced cognitive abilities, but which specific ecological factors may have shaped the evolution of which specific cognitive abilities remains poorly known. To explore these links, we applied a cognitive test batt...
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Maternal effects mediated by nutrients or specific endocrine states of the mother can affect infant development. Specifically, pre- and postnatal maternal stress associated with elevated glucocorticoid (GC) output is known to influence the phenotype of the offspring, including their physical and behavioral development. These developmental processes...
Preprint
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Audience effects, i.e. changes in behaviour caused by the presence of conspecifics, have rarely been studied in the context of olfactory communication, even though they may provide important insights into the functions of olfactory signals. Functional sex differences in scent-marking behaviours are common and influenced by the social system. To dat...
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Animal communication has long been thought to be subject to pressures and constraints associated with social relationships. However, our understanding of how the nature and quality of social relationships relates to the use and evolution of communication is limited by a lack of directly comparable methods across multiple levels of analysis. Here, w...
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Social influence is distributed unequally between males and females in many mammalian societies. In human societies, gender inequality is particularly evident in access to leadership positions. Understanding why women historically and cross-culturally have tended to be under-represented as leaders within human groups and organizations represents a...
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Is it possible to slow the rate of ageing, or do biological constraints limit its plasticity? We test the ‘invariant rate of ageing’ hypothesis, which posits that the rate of ageing is relatively fixed within species, with a collection of 39 human and nonhuman primate datasets across seven genera. We first recapitulate, in nonhuman primates, the hi...
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Forest edges change micro-environmental conditions, thereby affecting the ecology of many forest-dwelling species. Understanding such edge effects is particularly important for Malagasy primates because many of them live in highly fragmented forests today. The aim of our study was to assess the influence of forest edge effects on activity budgets,...
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Social learning is widespread in the animal kingdom, but individuals can differ in how they acquire and use social information. Personality traits, such as neophobia, may, for example, promote individual learning strategies. Here, we contribute comparative data on social learning strategies in carnivorans by examining whether narrow-striped mongoos...
Chapter
Im Rahmen einer biologischen Doktorarbeit am Deutschen Primatenzentrum (DPZ) in Göttingen war ich insgesamt fünf Mal in Madagaskar. So habe ich etwa 14 Monate auf der Insel verbracht, hauptsächlich auf der Feldstation des DPZ im Kirindy-Trockenwald nahe der Stadt Morondava an der Westküste. Währenddessen habe ich große und kleine Begegnungen mit Me...
Chapter
Die folgenden Einträge sind im Rahmen einer Recherchereise entstanden, die von der Heinz-Kühn-Stiftung finanziert wurde. Anfang 2014 hatte in Madagaskar eine neue Regierung unter Hery Rajaonarimampianina die Macht übernommen. Das Ziel der Reise war es, auszuloten, ob und wie dieser politische Einschnitt einen Neuanfang für Bevölkerung und Natur dar...
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Behavioural flexibility allows animals to adapt their behaviour to changing situations in their current habitat. Flexibility is involved in behaviours comprising decision‐making in their ecological or social environment. However, the ability to behave flexibly can co‐vary with an individual's personality and its level of inhibitory control, so that...
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Variation in cognitive abilities is thought to be linked to variation in brain size, which varies across species with either social factors (Social Intelligence Hypothesis) or ecological challenges (Ecological Intelligence Hypothesis). However, the nature of the ecological processes invoked by the Ecological Intelligence Hypothesis, like adaptation...
Preprint
Full-text available
Is it possible to slow the rate of aging, or do biological constraints limit its plasticity? We test this ‘invariant rate of aging’ hypothesis with an unprecedented collection of 39 human and nonhuman primate datasets across seven genera. We first recapitulate, in nonhuman primates, the highly regular relationship between life expectancy and lifesp...
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Full-text available
Primates have relatively larger brains than other mammals even though brain tissue is energetically costly. Comparative studies of variation in cognitive skills allow testing of evolutionary hypotheses addressing socioecological factors driving the evolution of primate brain size. However, data on cognitive abilities for meaningful interspecific co...
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Comparative psychology assesses cognitive abilities and capacities of non-human animals and humans. Based on performance differences and similarities in various species in cognitive tests, it is inferred how their minds work and reconstructed how cognition might have evolved. Critically, such species comparisons are only valid and meaningful if the...
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When resources are limited and defensible, inter-group encounters in animals are often of aggressive nature. Individuals can participate in inter-group encounters to defend mates, infants, and food resources, but also to attract out-group individuals for additional mating opportunities. Since inter-group conflicts have mainly been studied in group-...
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Cheney and Seyfarth’s pioneering studies on vervet alarm calls reformed our knowledge about nonhuman’s understanding of the world and their social relationships. Since then, it has been reported that some other primate species also have functionally referential alarm calls for aerial and terrestrial predators, but recent research indicates that the...
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Accurately quantifying species’ area requirements is a prerequisite for effective area‐based conservation. This typically involves collecting tracking data on species of interest and then conducting home‐range analyses. Problematically, autocorrelation in tracking data can result in space needs being severely underestimated. Based on previous work,...
Preprint
Full-text available
Primates have relatively larger brains than other mammals even though brain tissue is energetically costly. Comparative studies of variation in cognitive skills allow testing of evolutionary hypotheses addressing socioecological factors driving the evolution of primate brain size. However, data on cognitive abilities for meaningful interspecific co...
Article
Glucocorticoids have wide-ranging effects on animals' behaviour, but many of these effects remain poorly understood because numerous confounding factors have often been neglected in previous studies. Here, we present data from a 2-year study of 7 groups of wild Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi), in which we examined concentrations of faeca...
Article
Animals that depend on water sources in dry environments must balance their water demands with predation risk. In settings of water scarcity, predators may strategically exploit prey's dependence on water; prey may adjust their use of water sources either spatially or temporally to avoid overlapping with predators. To examine the spatiotemporal dyn...
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Agonistic intergroup interactions can cause individual costs such as physical injuries, increased physiological stress, and disrupted intragroup social relationships. Therefore, individuals should employ behavioral strategies to minimize the cost associated with aggressive intergroup encounters (IGEs). We investigated the behavioral strategies of t...
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In the original publication of the article, figure 1 was wrongly published as a duplication.
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With the predicted increase in extreme weather events as a result of global climate change, animals living in dry or seasonally dry habitats are likely to experience dramatic fluctuations in water availability from season to season and year to year. Understanding how animals respond to short-term changes in water availability is paramount for futur...
Article
Over the past 20 years, GPS collars have emerged as powerful tools for the study of nonhuman primate (hereafter, "primate") movement ecology. As the size and cost of GPS collars have decreased and performance has improved, it is timely to review the use and success of GPS collar deployments on primates to date. Here we compile data on deployments a...
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Given their shared evolutionary history with humans, nonhuman primates play an exceptional role in the study of animal behavior, ecology, and evolution. This close phylogenetic relationship has led scholars from a diverse set of disciplines (e.g., biological and social sciences, notably psychology and anthropology) and theoretical perspectives (e.g...
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Waterholes are critically important to animal survival in dry habitats but are also a potential source of parasite exposure. Avoiding feces may effectively reduce parasite transmission risk, but may also impose costs, including greater travel distances to locate less contaminated resources. We studied factors influencing wild, water-dependent red-f...
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In a group of animals, interests and needs among group members can be very different. To benefit from group-living, individuals must therefore coordinate each other’s activities when they perform collective actions. Collective decision-making is a key mechanism during coordination, and it allows all members of a social group to reach a consensus. I...
Chapter
Zunächst ist es uns ein Bedürfnis, Gerald Hartung und Matthias Herrgen für die hervorragende Auswahl der Kommentatoren unseres target-Artikels zu danken. Die disziplinäre Vielfalt der fundierten Kommentare war für uns nicht nur überwältigend in Bezug auf die Wahrnehmung der eigenen disziplinären Scheuklappen, sondern auch im Hinblick darauf, dass s...
Chapter
Soziale Ungleichheit und ihre Folgen stellen ein massives Problem für die Stabilität und den Zusammenhalt moderner menschlicher Gesellschaften dar; unter anderem weil sie mit erhöhten Risiken für zahlreiche, individuell nachteilige Merkmale verbunden sind. Wir diskutieren Stress und Einsamkeit als psycho-soziale Faktoren, die diese Verbindung vermi...
Preprint
Full-text available
The field of primate cognition studies how primates, including humans, perceive, process, store, retrieve, and use information to guide decision making and other behavior. Much of this research is motivated by a desire to understand how these abilities evolved. Large and diverse samples from a wide range of species are vital to achieving this goal....
Article
Full-text available
Inferring the evolutionary history of cognitive abilities requires large and diverse samples. However, such samples are often beyond the reach of individual researchers or institutions, and studies are often limited to small numbers of species. Consequently, methodological and site-specific-differences across studies can limit comparisons between s...
Article
Full-text available
Parasites are ubiquitous and can strongly affect their hosts through mechanisms such as behavioural changes, increased energetic costs and/or immunomodulation. When parasites are detrimental to their hosts, they should act as physiological stressors and elicit the release of glucocorticoids. Alternatively, previously elevated glucocorticoid levels...
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Despite their ubiquity, in most cases little is known about the impact of eukaryotic parasites on their mammalian hosts. Comparative approaches provide a powerful method to investigate the impact of parasites on host ecology and evolution, though two issues are critical for such efforts: controlling for variation in methods of identifying parasites...
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Full-text available
Despite their ubiquity, in most cases little is known about the impact of eukaryotic parasites on their mammalian hosts. Comparative approaches provide a powerful method to investigate the impact of parasites on host ecology and evolution, though two issues are critical for such efforts: controlling for variation in methods of identifying parasites...
Article
Full-text available
Collar-mounted monitoring devices for collecting behavioural or positional data (e.g. sound recorders, accelerometers, GPS, VHF) are increasingly used in wildlife research. Although these tools represent an improvement in terms of data quality, they require capturing animals. Using remotely releasable collars allows for reducing the number of captu...
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Full-text available
Group size is a key component of sociality and can affect individual health and fitness. However, proximate links explaining this relationship remain poorly understood, partly because previous studies neglected potential confounding effects of ecological factors. Here, we correlated group size with various measures of health while controlling for m...
Chapter
This chapter explores the notion that the behavioural and cognitive constituents of human social norms have equivalents or precursors in humans’ closest living relatives, the non-human primates. Scrutiny of the definitions of various forms of conformity revealed, on the one hand, that some key features defining social norms are essentially impossib...
Preprint
Inferring the evolutionary history of cognitive abilities requires large and diverse samples. However, such samples are often beyond the reach of individual researchers or institutions, and studies are often limited to small numbers of species. Consequently, methodological and site-specific-differences across studies can limit comparisons between s...
Article
Full-text available
Collective movements are essential for maintaining group cohesion. However, group members can have different optimal departure times, depending on individual, social and contextual factors whose relative importance remains poorly known. We, therefore, studied collective departures in four groups of red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur rufifrons) in Kirindy...
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Full-text available
Variation in communicative complexity has been conceptually and empirically attributed to social complexity, with animals living in more complex social environments exhibiting more signals and/or more complex signals than animals living in simpler social environments. As compelling as studies highlighting a link between social and communicative var...
Article
The field of primate cognition studies how primates, including humans, perceive, process, store, retrieve, and use information to guide decision making and other behavior. Much of this research is motivated by a desire to understand how these abilities evolved. Large and diverse samples from a wide range of species are vital to achieving this goal....
Article
Full-text available
Background: Species recognition, i.e., the ability to distinguish conspecifics from heterospecifics, plays an essential role in reproduction. The role of facial cues for species recognition has been investigated in several non-human primate species except for lemurs. We therefore investigated the role of facial cues for species recognition in wild...