Susan Alberts

Susan Alberts
Duke University | DU · Departments of Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology

PhD, University of Chicago

About

287
Publications
58,733
Reads
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14,638
Citations
Citations since 2016
84 Research Items
8213 Citations
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201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,0001,2001,400
201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,0001,2001,400
201620172018201920202021202202004006008001,0001,2001,400
Additional affiliations
July 1998 - present
Duke University
Position
  • Professor

Publications

Publications (287)
Article
Over the past seventy-five years, long-term population studies of individual organisms in their natural environments have been influential in illuminating how ecological and evolutionary processes operate, and the extent of variation and temporal change in these processes. As these studies have matured, the incorporation of new technologies has gen...
Preprint
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Affiliative social bonds are linked to fitness components in many social mammals. However, despite their importance, little is known about how the tendency to form social bonds develops in young animals, or if the development of social behavior is heritable and thus can evolve. Using four decades of longitudinal observational data from a wild baboo...
Article
Most animal habitats are affected by humans. While some species tolerate and even benefit from these changes, others suffer. Understanding when and how human-altered landscapes affect animal behavior, health, reproduction, and survival is essential to species management in a human-dominated world. Here we use 27 years of data on human-baboon encoun...
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The ultimate payoff of behaviours depends not only on their direct impact on an individual, but also on the impact on their relatives. Local relatedness—the average relatedness of an individual to their social environment—therefore has profound effects on social and life history evolution. Recent work has begun to show that local relatedness has th...
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Does social isolation in adulthood predict survival because socially isolated individuals are already unhealthy due to adversity earlier in life (health selection)? Or do adult social environments directly cause poor health and increased mortality risk (“social causation”)? These alternative hypotheses are difficult to disentangle in humans because...
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Objectives Pregnancy failure and fetal loss represent a major fitness cost for any mammal, particularly those with slow life histories such as primates. Here, we quantified the risk of fetal loss in wild hybrid baboons, including genetic, ecological, and demographic sources of variance. We were particularly interested in testing the hypothesis that...
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Over the past 50 years, a wealth of testable, often conflicting, hypotheses have been generated about the evolution of offspring sex ratio manipulation by mothers. Several of these hypotheses have received support in studies of invertebrates and some vertebrate taxa. However, their success in explaining sex ratios in mammalian taxa, and especially...
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Ecological relationships between bacteria mediate the services that gut microbiomes provide to their hosts. Knowing the overall direction and strength of these relationships within hosts, and their generalizability across hosts, is essential to learn how microbial ecology scales up to affect microbiome assembly, dynamics, and host health. Here we g...
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Human gut microbial dynamics are highly individualized, making it challenging to link microbiota to health and to design universal microbiome therapies. This individuality is typically attributed to variation in host genetics, diets, environments and medications but it could also emerge from fundamental ecological forces that shape microbiota more...
Article
The rate of adaptive evolution, the contribution of selection to genetic changes that increase mean fitness, is determined by the additive genetic variance in individual relative fitness. To date, there are few robust estimates of this parameter for natural populations, and it is therefore unclear whether adaptive evolution can play a meaningful ro...
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Significance Age-related changes in the capability to produce healthy young are common in humans and are increasingly well documented in nonhuman animals. However, differences among species in the nature of these age-related changes remain poorly understood. We compare patterns and consequences of age-related changes in female reproductive performa...
Article
In animal behavior studies, a common goal is to investigate the causal pathways between an exposure and outcome, and a mediator that lies in between. Causal mediation analysis provides a principled approach for such studies. Although many applications involve longitudinal data, the existing causal mediation models are not directly applicable to set...
Article
Parallel-laser photogrammetry is growing in popularity as a way to collect non-invasive body size data from wild mammals. Despite its many appeals, this method requires researchers to hand-measure (i) the pixel distance between the parallel laser spots (inter-laser distance) to produce a scale within the image, and (ii) the pixel distance between t...
Article
The social environment is a major determinant of morbidity, mortality and Darwinian fitness in social animals. Recent studies have begun to uncover the molecular processes associated with these relationships, but the degree to which they vary across different dimensions of the social environment remains unclear. Here, we draw on a long-term field s...
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Full-text available
Early life conditions can have profound effects on individual health, longevity, and biological fitness. Two classes of hypotheses are used to explain the evolutionary origins of these effects: developmental constraints (DC) hypotheses, which focus on the deleterious effects of low-quality early-life environments, and predictive adaptive response (...
Article
Inbreeding often imposes net fitness costs,1, 2, 3, 4, 5 leading to the expectation that animals will engage in inbreeding avoidance when the costs of doing so are not prohibitive.4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 However, one recent meta-analysis indicates that animals of many species do not avoid mating with kin in experimental settings,⁶ and another reports that...
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Full-text available
Human gut microbial dynamics are highly individualized, making it challenging to link microbiota to health and to design universal microbiome therapies. This individuality is typically attributed to variation in diets, environments, and medications, but it could also emerge from fundamental ecological forces that shape primate microbiota more gener...
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Full-text available
Admixture has profoundly influenced evolution across the tree of life, including in humans and other primates. However, we have limited insight into the genetic and phenotypic consequences of admixture in primates, especially during its key early stages. Here, we address this gap by combining 50 years of field observations with population and funct...
Article
Opposite-sex social relationships are important predictors of fitness in many animals, including several group-living mammals. Consequently, understanding sources of variance in the tendency to form opposite-sex relationships is important for understanding social evolution. Genetic contributions are of particular interest due to their importance in...
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Baboons inform on human gut microbiota Commensal bacteria are found throughout an organism, but it is not known whether associations between gut bacteria and their host are heritable. Grieneisen et al. examined changes in the microbiomes of 585 wild baboons from fecal samples collected over 14 years (see the Perspective by Cortes-Ortiz and Amato)....
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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...
Article
Causal mediation analysis seeks to investigate how the treatment effect of an exposure on outcomes is mediated through intermediate variables. Although many applications involve longitudinal data, the existing methods are not directly applicable to settings where the mediator and outcome are measured on sparse and irregular time grids. We extend th...
Preprint
Full-text available
The social environment is a major determinant of morbidity, mortality, and Darwinian fitness in social animals. Recent studies have begun to uncover the molecular processes associated with these relationships, but the degree to which they vary across different dimensions of the social environment remains unclear. Here, we draw on a long-term field...
Preprint
Full-text available
Causal mediation analysis studies how the treatment effect of an exposure on outcomes is mediated through intermediate variables. Although many applications involve longitudinal data, the existing methods are not directly applicable to settings where the mediators are measured on irregular time grids. In this paper, we propose a causal mediation me...
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Full-text available
Aging, for virtually all life, is inescapable. However, within populations, biological aging rates vary. Understanding sources of variation in this process is central to understanding the biodemography of natural populations. We constructed a DNA methylation-based age predictor for an intensively studied wild baboon population in Kenya. Consistent...
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Are differences in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activation across the adult life span linked to differences in survival? This question has been the subject of considerable debate. We analyze the link between survival and fecal glucocorticoid (GC) measures in a wild primate population, leveraging an unusually extensive longitudinal data...
Article
Bartoš et al. (2021; Mammal Review 51: 143–153; https://doi.org/10.1111/mam.12219) reviewed the mechanisms involved in the ‘Bruce effect’ – a phenomenon originally documented in inseminated female house mice Mus musculus, who block pregnancy following exposure to a novel (non‐sire) male. They argue that the term ‘Bruce effect’ should be applied in...
Article
Significance Extensive care of offspring by mothers is a fundamental trait of all mammals, including humans, and the loss of a mother can be catastrophic for offspring. Here, we identify previously undocumented ways in which the death of a mother affects her offspring, using long-term, longitudinal data from seven primate species. First, females th...
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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...
Article
Full-text available
People who are more socially integrated or have higher socio-economic status live longer. Recent studies in non-human primates show striking convergences with this human pattern: female primates with more social partners, stronger social bonds or higher dominance rank all lead longer lives. However, it remains unclear whether social environments al...
Preprint
Full-text available
Opposite-sex social relationships are important predictors of fitness in many animals, including several group-living mammals. Consequently, understanding sources of variance in the tendency to form opposite-sex relationships is important for understanding social evolution. Genetic contributions are of particular interest due to their importance in...
Article
Full-text available
Significance If an individual can anticipate an early death, should they also “live fast”? Fast reproduction is often proposed to be an adaptive response to harsh conditions in early life because early adversity predicts shorter lifespans. Individuals who speed up reproduction after experiencing early adversity might therefore have higher fitness t...
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Full-text available
Across group-living animals, linear dominance hierarchies lead to disparities in access to resources, health outcomes and reproductive performance. Studies of how dominance rank predicts these traits typically employ one of several dominance rank metrics without examining the assumptions each metric makes about its underlying competitive processes....
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Full-text available
Significance In humans and other social animals, early life adversity and weak social relationships can both alter adult stress responses. The causal connections between these variables are debated; resolving this debate requires data on all three variables in the same individuals. Here, we unite these components in wild female baboons. We find tha...
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In vertebrates, glucocorticoid secretion occurs in response to energetic and psychosocial stressors that trigger the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Measuring glucocorticoid concentrations can therefore shed light on the stressors associated with different social and environmental variables, including dominance rank. Using 14,172 fecal s...
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Full-text available
Primate offspring often depend on their mothers well beyond the age of weaning, and offspring that experience maternal death in early life can suffer substantial reductions in fitness across the lifespan. Here we leverage data from eight wild primate populations (seven species) to examine two underappreciated pathways linking early maternal death a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Causal mediation analysis aims to investigate how the treatment effect of an exposure on outcomes is mediated through intermediate variables. Although many applications involve longitudinal data, the existing methods are not directly applicable to the settings where the mediator and outcome are measured on sparse and irregular time grids. We extend...
Article
Full-text available
Social animals need connection Much research over the past decade or so has revealed that health and lifespan in humans, highly social animals, are reduced with social adversity. We humans are not the only animals that are social, however, and similar research has shown that other social mammals are similarly influenced by isolation and adversity....
Preprint
Full-text available
Across group-living animals, linear dominance hierarchies lead to disparities in access to resources, health outcomes, and reproductive performance. Studies of how dominance rank affects these outcomes typically employ one of several dominance rank metrics without examining the assumptions each metric makes about its underlying competitive processe...
Article
Full-text available
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
Aging, for virtually all life, is inescapable. However, within species and populations, rates of biological aging (i.e., physical decline with age) vary across individuals. Understanding sources of variation in biological aging is therefore central to understanding the biodemography of natural populations. Here, we constructed a DNA methylation-bas...
Article
Ecoimmunological patterns and processes remain understudied in wild primates, in part because of the lack of noninvasive methods to measure immunity. Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) is the most abundant antibody present at mammalian mucosal surfaces and provides an important first line of defense against pathogens. Recent studies show that sIgA c...
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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...
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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
Early life adversity can affect an individual's health, survival, and fertility for many years after the adverse experience. Whether early life adversity also imposes intergenerational effects on the exposed individual's offspring is not well understood. We fill this gap by leveraging prospective, longitudinal data on a wild, long-lived primate. We...
Article
Full-text available
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 the previous w...
Article
Full-text available
Several factors are thought to shape male parasite risk in polygynous and polygynandrous mammals, including male-male competition, investment in potentially immunosuppressive hormones, and dispersal. Parasitism is also driven by processes occurring at larger scales, including host social groups and populations. To date, studies that test parasite-r...
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Understanding the evolution of life histories requires information on how life histories vary among individuals and how such variation predicts individual fitness. Using complete life histories for females in a well-studied population of wild baboons, we tested two nonexclusive hypotheses about the relationships among survival, reproduction, and fi...
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Full-text available
Gut microbiota in geographically isolated host populations are often distinct. These differences have been attributed to between-population differences in host behaviours, environments, genetics and geographical distance. However, which factors are most important remains unknown. Here, we fill this gap for baboons by leveraging information on 13 en...
Article
Sexually selected infanticide has been the subject of intense empirical and theoretical study for decades; a related phenomenon, male‐mediated prenatal loss, has received much less attention in evolutionary studies. Male‐mediated prenatal loss occurs when inseminated or pregnant females terminate reproductive effort following exposure to a nonsire...
Article
1.Helminth parasites can have wide ranging, detrimental effects on host reproduction and survival. These effects are best documented in humans and domestic animals, while only a few studies in wild mammals have identified both the forces that drive helminth infection risk and their costs to individual fitness. 2.Working in a well‐studied population...
Preprint
Full-text available
In humans and nonhuman animals, early life adversity can affect an individual's health, survival, and fertility for many years after the adverse experience. However, whether early life adversity also imposes intergenerational effects on the exposed individual's offspring is not well understood. Here, we fill this gap by leveraging prospective, long...
Article
Full-text available
Admixture between diverging taxa has made, and continues to make, an important contribution to primate diversity and evolution. However, although naturally occurring hybrids have now been documented in all major primate lineages, we still know relatively little about the factors that shape when and where admixture occurs. Baboons (genus Papio), in...
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Full-text available
The current extinction and climate change crises pressure us to predict population dynamics with ever-greater accuracy. Although predictions rest on the well-advanced theory of age-structured populations, two key issues remain poorly explored. Specifically, how the age-dependency in demographic rates and the year-to-year interactions between surviv...
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In humans and other hierarchical species, social status is tightly linked to variation in health and fitness-related traits. Experimental manipulations of social status in female rhesus macaques suggest that this relationship is partially explained by status effects on immune gene regulation. However, social hierarchies are established and maintain...
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Full-text available
Resource limitation is a fundamental factor governing the composition and function of ecological communities. However, the role of resource supply in structuring the intestinal microbiome has not been established and represents a challenge for mam- mals that rely on microbial symbionts for digestion: too little supply might starve the microbiome wh...