Michael Lawrence Wilson

Michael Lawrence Wilson
University of Minnesota Twin Cities | UMN · Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour

Ph.D.

About

147
Publications
49,498
Reads
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6,263
Citations
Citations since 2016
51 Research Items
3556 Citations
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20162017201820192020202120220100200300400500
20162017201820192020202120220100200300400500
Introduction
I am a Professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota. I study nonhuman primates to provide comparative data for testing hypotheses about the evolution of distinctively human traits. I focus on the behavior and ecology of chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Other work in my lab includes field studies of baboons, geladas, and bonobos, and agent-based computer models of virtual primates.
Additional affiliations
August 2013 - July 2014
Université de Montpellier
Position
  • Visiting Scientist
July 2007 - present
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Position
  • University of Minnesota - Twin Cities
August 2001 - present
The Jane Goodall Institute
Position
  • Socioecology of Territorial Behavior in Wild Chimpanzees
Education
September 1994 - May 2001
Harvard University
Field of study
  • Anthropology
October 1990 - June 1991
University of Cambridge
Field of study
  • English Literature
October 1987 - June 1992
University of Chicago
Field of study
  • Biological Sciences

Publications

Publications (147)
Article
Full-text available
The marginal value theorem is an optimal foraging model that predicts how efficient foragers should respond to both their ecological and social environments when foraging in food patches, and it has strongly influenced hypotheses for primate behavior. Nevertheless, experimental tests of the marginal value theorem have been rare in primates and obse...
Article
provided pioneering accounts of chimpanzee behavior and ecology. With funding from multiple sources, including the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI) and grants from private foundations and federal programs, the project has continued for sixty years, providing a wealth of information about our evolutionary cousins. These chimpanzees face two main challen...
Article
Full-text available
Sixty years of research on chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania have revealed many similarities with human behaviour, including hunting, tool use, and coalitionary killing. The close phylogenetic relationship between chimpanzees and humans suggests that these traits were present in the last common ancestor of Pan and Homo...
Article
Following the introduction of DNA fingerprinting in the 1980s, studies have repeatedly revealed mismatches between the mating system inferred from social behaviour and the mating system revealed through genetic relationships. In this study, we examined the occurrence of extragroup paternities (EGPs) in gelada monkeys at Guassa, Ethiopia and explore...
Article
Full-text available
Significance Human populations so dominate the ecology of the planet that geologists are describing this as the Anthropocene, “the time of humans.” Therefore, understanding the ecology of our time requires understanding our growth, which multiple models have sought to explain. Here we apply a unified model of ecology to understand and summarize his...
Article
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Validation of agent-based models is underappreciated in scientific studies even though this process is an important part of ensuring that a model is a reliable research tool. Here we propose modifications to a model validation framework and illustrate this framework with a case study of territorial behavior. In species that defend territories, larg...
Article
Full-text available
Vocal learning, the ability to modify the acoustic structure of vocalizations based on social experience, is a fundamental feature of speech in humans (Homo sapiens). While vocal learning is common in taxa such as songbirds and whales, the vocal learning capacities of nonhuman primates appear more limited. Intriguingly, evidence for vocal learning...
Article
Group territory defence poses a collective action problem: individuals can free-ride, benefiting without paying the costs. Individual heterogeneity has been proposed to solve such problems, as individuals high in reproductive success, rank, fighting ability or motivation may benefit from defending territories even if others free-ride. To test this...
Article
Full-text available
Species distributions are influenced by processes occurring at multiple spatial scales. It is therefore insufficient to model species distribution at a single geographic scale, as this does not provide the necessary understanding of determining factors. Instead, multiple approaches are needed, each differing in spatial extent, grain, and research o...
Article
Food-associated calls have received much research attention due to their potential to refer to discovered food in a word-like manner. Studies have found that in many species, food-associated calls attract receivers to the food patch, suggesting these calls play roles in food sharing, cooperation and competition. Additionally, in various species, th...
Article
Decades of research have led to a solid understanding of the social systems of gregarious apes: chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and gibbons. As field studies have increasingly collected data from multiple neighboring habituated groups, genetic and social interconnections have been revealed. These findings provide a more nuanced picture of intergrou...
Article
Infectious disease outbreaks pose a significant threat to the conservation of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and all threatened nonhuman primates. Characterizing and mitigating these threats to support the sustainability and welfare of wild populations is of the highest priority. In an attempt to understand and mitigate the risk of disease for the c...
Preprint
Full-text available
Vocal learning, the ability to voluntarily modify the acoustic structure of vocalizations based on social cues, is a fundamental feature of speech in humans ( Homo sapiens ). While vocal learning is common in taxa such as songbirds and whales, the vocal learning capacities of nonhuman primates appear more limited. Intriguingly, evidence for vocal l...
Preprint
Full-text available
Male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) defend group territories and sometimes kill members of rival communities — a pattern often compared to human warfare1-3. Male chimpanzees also sometimes kill grown males from their own community4-9. Such within-community killings are puzzling, as they reduce the coalition strength needed to win inter-community con...
Chapter
Full-text available
Multidisciplinary approaches are critical to address the increasingly complex issues at the intersection of nonhuman primates and neglected infectious diseases. In this chapter, we use the Gombe Ecosystem Health Project in Tanzania to demonstrate how team science can be launched to tackle complexity in health. The diverse interactions among humans,...
Preprint
Full-text available
Food-associated calls have attracted much research attention due to their potential to refer to discovered food in a word-like manner. Nevertheless, their effect on receiver behavior remains unclear for many species. While some studies suggest that food-associated calls attract other foragers, other studies indicate that they repel others. We condu...
Article
Full-text available
In 1795, philosopher Immanuel Kant proposed rules to promote perpetual peace among nations (1). He first required that all nations be republics, because when “the consent of the subjects is required to determine whether there shall be war or not, nothing is more natural than that they should weigh the matter well, before undertaking such a bad busi...
Article
Full-text available
The ability to generate genomic data from wild animal populations has the potential to give unprecedented insight into the population history and dynamics of species in their natural habitats. However, in the case of many species, it is impossible legally, ethically, or logistically to obtain tissues samples of high quality necessary for genomic an...
Article
Full-text available
The study of non-human primate thanatology has expanded dramatically in recent years as scientists seek to understand the evolutionary roots of human death concepts and practices. However, observations of how conspecifics respond to dead individuals are rare and highly variable. Mothers of several species of primate have been reported to carry and...
Article
The study of non-human primate thanatology has expanded dramatically in recent years as scientists seek to understand the evolutionary roots of human death concepts and practices. However, observations of how conspecifics respond to dead individuals are rare and highly variable. Mothers of several species of primate have been reported to carry and...
Article
Full-text available
Preprint
Full-text available
The ability to generate genomic data from wild animal populations has the potential to give unprecedented insight into the population history and dynamics of species in their natural habitats. However, in the case of many species, it is impossible legally, ethically, or logistically to obtain tissues samples of high-quality necessary for genomic an...
Article
Full-text available
Historic calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) can provide a unique perspective into the health status of past human populations but currently no studies have focused on the oral microbial ecosystem of other primates, including our closest relatives, within the hominids. Here we use ancient DNA extraction methods, shotgun library preparation, a...
Article
Full-text available
Baboons, members of the genus Papio, comprise six closely related species distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southwest Arabia. The species exhibit more ecological flexibility and a wider range of social systems than many other primates. This article summarizes our current knowledge of the natural history of baboons and highlights directi...
Article
Full-text available
Baboons, members of the genus Papio, comprise six closely related species distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa and southwest Arabia. The species exhibit more ecological flexibility and a wider range of social systems than many other primates. This article summarizes our current knowledge of the natural history of baboons and highlights directi...
Article
Full-text available
https://theconversation.com/studying-chimpanzee-calls-for-clues-about-the-origins-of-human-language-95990
Article
Full-text available
We present the first cross continental comparison of the flowering and fruiting phenology of tropical forests across Africa. Flowering events of 5,446 trees from 196 species across 12 sites, and fruiting events of 4,595 trees from 191 species, across 11 sites were monitored over periods of 6 to 29 years, and analysed to describe phenology at the co...
Article
In many species, females produce vocalizations during or soon after mating. In chimpanzees, these calls accompany only some matings while visual signals of sexual receptivity are always visible. Proposed explanations for chimpanzee copulation calls include (1) increasing paternity confusion and thus reducing infanticide risk, and (2) competing more...
Article
Humans differ strikingly from other primates in the capacity for vocal learning. How and why such vocal flexibility evolved remains puzzling. Evidence of geographic variation in the pant-hoot calls of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) suggests that chimpanzees have some capacity for vocal learning, which is intriguing given the close phylogenetic relat...
Presentation
Quantitative tools for classifying vocal repertoires have been constantly evolving with developments in machine learning and speech recognition research as well as increasing computing power. There are two main methodological considerations in classifying vocalizations: (i) choosing the classification technique and (ii) choosing the features for cl...
Article
Studies of non-human primate vocal communication commonly focus on “functionally referential signals,” which are thought to function like human words, informing receivers about stimuli in the external environment. Captive studies of the food-associated “rough-grunt” of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) report that their acoustic structure varies accord...
Article
Full-text available
Ever since Darwin, questions about humans have driven sexual selection research. While studies of other organisms are often justified as useful for improving understanding of humans, humans themselves can be useful models. Although humans present some drawbacks as model organisms (complicated societies, slow reproduction and strong ethical constrai...
Article
Objectives: We present a study of skeletal damage to four chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) infanticide victims from Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Skeletal analysis may provide insight into the adaptive significance of infanticide by examining whether nutritional benefits sufficiently explain infanticidal behavior. The nutritional hypothesis would be...
Article
Full-text available
Researchers increasingly view animal personality traits as products of natural selection. We present data that describe the personalities of 128 eastern chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) currently living in or who lived their lives in the Kasekela and Mitumba communities of Gombe National Park, Tanzania. We obtained ratings on 24 items f...
Poster
Full-text available
From an evolutionary perspective, the demographic transition presents an interesting puzzle: if organisms have evolved to maximize their reproductive success, why would individuals intentionally limit their own fertility? Three main explanations have been proposed: (1) maladaptive mismatch between evolved psychological mechanisms and novel technolo...
Article
Evolutionary anthropologists seek to understand the evolution of warfare across multiple timescales, from the roots of warfare in the intergroup aggression of our primate ancestors, to the causes of warfare among contemporary societies today. While warfare remains a contentious subject, considerable evidence supports the view that warfare is a stra...
Chapter
Full-text available
Demonic male theory (DMT) seeks to explain the evolution of violent behavior in humans and other great apes, in which males generally behave more violently than females. Rooted in behavioral ecology, DMT views violent temperament as an adaptation that can evolve when favored by ecological and social factors.
Article
Disease and other health hazards pose serious threats to the persistence of wild ape populations. The total chimpanzee population at Gombe National Park, Tanzania, has declined from an estimated 120 to 150 individuals in the 1960's to around 100 individuals by the end of 2013, with death associated with observable signs of disease as the leading ca...
Preprint
Full-text available
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) compete aggressively for territory with their neighbors. Results from playback experiments and observations of naturally occurring intergroup interactions indicate that success in territorial competition depends mainly on the number of adult males on each side. Communities with more males are therefore expected to win...
Preprint
Full-text available
Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) compete aggressively for territory with their neighbors. Results from playback experiments and observations of naturally occurring intergroup interactions indicate that success in territorial competition depends mainly on the number of adult males on each side. Communities with more males are therefore expected to win...
Article
Full-text available
The distribution and abundance of food resources are among the most important factors that influence animal behavioral strategies. Yet, spatial variation in feeding habitat quality is often difficult to assess with traditional methods that rely on extrapolation from plot survey data or remote sensing. Here, we show that maximum entropy species dist...
Article
Full-text available
Animal sociality facilitates the transmission of pathogenic microorganisms among hosts, but the extent to which sociality enables animals' beneficial microbial associations is poorly understood. The question is critical because microbial communities, particularly those in the gut, are key regulators of host health. We show evidence that chimpanzee...
Article
Enteric dysbiosis is a characteristic feature of progressive human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection but has not been observed in simian immunodeficiency virus (SIVmac)-infected macaques, including in animals with end-stage disease. This has raised questions concerning the mechanisms underlying the HIV-1 associated enteropathy, with f...
Article
Full-text available
Studies of chimpanzee vocal communication provide valuable insights into the evolution of communication in complex societies, and also comparative data for understanding the evolution of human language. One particularly valuable dataset of recordings from free-living chimpanzees was collected by Frans X. Plooij and the late Hetty van de Rijt-Plooij...
Article
Full-text available
We are in a new epoch, the Anthropocene, and research into our closest living relatives, the great apes, must keep pace with the rate that our species is driving change. While a goal of many studies is to understand how great apes behave in natural contexts, the impact of human activities must increasingly be taken into account. This is both a chal...
Article
Full-text available
We are in a new epoch, the Anthropocene, and research into our closest living relatives, the great apes, must keep pace with the rate that our species is driving change. While a goal of many studies is to understand how great apes behave in natural contexts, the impact of human activities must increasingly be taken into account. This is both a chal...
Poster
Full-text available
This poster presents a model of typical territorial scenarios in which borders are maintained through highly aggressive acts and demonstrates an inverse relationship between territory size and rate of mortality from intergroup aggression. Here we explore this relationship in three ways. First, propose an analytical model derived from geometrical pr...
Article
Full-text available
Observations of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and bonobos (Pan paniscus) provide valuable comparative data for understanding the significance of conspecific killing. Two kinds of hypothesis have been proposed. Lethal violence is sometimes concluded to be the result of adaptive strategies, such that killers ultimately gain fit-ness benefits by incre...
Article
Full-text available
Plasmodium vivax is the leading cause of human malaria in Asia and Latin America but is absent from most of central Africa due to the near fixation of a mutation that inhibits the expression of its receptor, the Duffy antigen, on human erythrocytes. The emergence of this protective allele is not understood because P. vivax is believed to have origi...
Article
Full-text available
Infectious diseases are widely presumed to be one of the greatest threats to ape conservation in the wild. Human diseases are of particular concern, and the costs and benefits of human presence in protected areas with apes are regularly debated. While numerous syndromes with fatal outcomes have recently been described, precise identification of pat...
Article
Full-text available
Plasmodium vivax is the leading cause of human malaria in Asia and Latin America but is absent from most of central Africa due to the near fixation of a mutation that inhibits the expression of its receptor, the Duffy antigen, on human erythrocytes. The emergence of this protective allele is not understood because P. vivax is believed to have origi...
Article
Simian immunodeficiency virus of chimpanzees (SIVcpz) is the ancestor of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the etiologic agent of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) in humans. Like HIV-1-infected humans, SIVcpz-infected chimpanzees can develop AIDS-like symptoms. Because SIVcpz/HIV-1 may disrupt regulation of the gut microbiome an...
Article
Full-text available
Most great ape genetic variation remains uncharacterized; however, its study is critical for understanding population history, recombination, selection and susceptibility to disease. Here we sequence to high coverage a total of 79 wild- and captive-born individuals representing all six great ape species and seven subspecies and report 88.8 million...
Article
Full-text available
The intense arousal and excitement shown by adult male chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, during territorial attacks on other chimpanzees and predation upon monkeys suggest that similar psychological mechanisms may be involved. Specifically, it has been proposed that hunting behaviour in chimpanzees evolved from intraspecies aggression. Over 32 years, c...