Richard W. Wrangham's research while affiliated with Harvard University and other places

Publications (350)

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1. For energetically limited organisms, life history theory predicts trade‐offs between reproductive effort and somatic maintenance. This is especially true of female mammals, for whom reproduction presents multifarious energetic and physiological demands. 2. Here, we examine longitudinal changes in the gut virome (viral community) with respect to...
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Cooperation and communication likely coevolved in humans. However, the evolutionary roots of this interdependence remain unclear. We address this issue by investigating the role of vocal signals in facilitating a group cooperative behavior in an ape species: hunting in wild chimpanzees. First, we show that bark vocalizations produced before hunt in...
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Extending Campbell's (1999) staying alive theory (SAT) beyond aggression, we reviewed evidence that females are more self-protective than males. Many commentators provided additional supporting data. Sex differences in life-history adaptations, in the optimal relation between survival and reproduction, and in the mechanisms underlying trade-offs in...
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A fundamental aspect of human communication is our ability to refer to external objects and events through both words and gestures (such as pointing), yet the evolutionary origins of such signals remain obscure. Apes, living in their natural environments, rarely or never point, but it has been claimed that male chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes schweinf...
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Human–wildlife cooperation occurs when humans and free-living wild animals actively coordinate their behavior to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome. These interactions provide important benefits to both the human and wildlife communities involved, have wider impacts on the local ecosystem, and represent a unique intersection of human and animal...
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Abstract Human‐wildlife cooperation is a type of mutualism in which a human and a wild, free‐living animal actively coordinate their behaviour to achieve a common beneficial outcome. While other cooperative human‐animal interactions involving captive coercion or artificial selection (including domestication) have received extensive attention, we la...
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Viral infection is a major cause of ill health in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), but most evidence to date has come from conspicuous disease outbreaks with high morbidity and mortality. To examine the relationship between viral infection and ill health during periods not associated with disease outbreaks, we conducted a longitudinal study of w...
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Background Social isolation is a key risk factor for the onset and progression of age-related disease and mortality in humans. Nevertheless, older people commonly have narrowing social networks, with influences from both cultural factors and the constraints of senescence. We evaluate evolutionarily-grounded models by studying social aging in wild c...
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Many male traits are well explained by sexual selection theory as adaptations to mating competition and mate choice, whereas no unifying theory explains traits expressed more in females. Anne Campbell's “staying alive” theory proposed that human females produce stronger self-protective reactions than males to aggressive threats because self-protect...
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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...
Preprint
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Background Social isolation is a key risk factor for the onset and progression of age-related disease and mortality in humans, yet older people commonly have narrowing social networks. Few models explain why human networks shrink with age, despite the risk that small networks and isolation pose. We evaluate models grounded in a life history perspec...
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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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Significance The microbiome plays key roles in human health, but little is known about its evolution. We investigate the evolutionary history of the African hominid oral microbiome by analyzing dental biofilms of humans and Neanderthals spanning the past 100,000 years and comparing them with those of chimpanzees, gorillas, and howler monkeys. We id...
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Objectives: Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are notable for exhibiting high levels of male-to-female aggression. Much of this aggression from adult males serves sexually coercive functions. Despite being smaller and lower-ranking than adult males, adolescent males also engage in regular aggression against adult females. Here, we test whether the pri...
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Primate foraging is influenced by the spatial and temporal distribution of foods, which may facilitate or constrain optimal nutrient intakes. Chimpanzees are frugivorous primates that mainly subsist on ripe fruit that is typically low in available protein (AP) and high in easily digestible carbohydrates. Because chimpanzees prefer ripe fruit and of...
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Variance in the quality of food sites exploited by group-living animals should allow dominant individuals to gain feeding advantages. In some cases of eating in large patches, however, the amount of agonism can be puzzlingly low. We studied this problem in wild adult chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, eating ripe fruits in large tree crowns, a context i...
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Across vertebrates, high social status affords preferential access to resources, and is expected to correlate positively with health and longevity. Increasing evidence, however, suggests that although dominant females generally enjoy reduced exposure to physiological and psychosocial stressors, dominant males do not. Here we test the hypothesis tha...
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Significance Chimpanzees, human’s close evolutionary relatives, are a tractable model system for understanding how physical aggression can develop in the absence of gender socialization. Here we used 13 y of behavioral data and a targeted 3-y social development study to document clear sex differences in chimpanzees’ early aggressive experiences, su...
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Ecologists and conservation biologists conducting long-term research programs in the tropics must confront serious ethical challenges that revolve around economic inequalities, cultural differences, supporting the local communities as much as possible, and sharing the knowledge produced by the research. In this collective article, researchers share...
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Long-term primate field research programs contribute to the protection of endangered primate species and their vanishing habitats by informing and fostering local and international conservation programs. The Kibale Chimpanzee Project (KCP) has studied the Kanyawara community of wild chimpanzees continuously since 1987, investigating a wide range of...
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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While declining physical performance is an expected consequence of ageing, human clinical research has placed increasing emphasis on physical frailty as a predictor of death and disability in the elderly. We examined non-invasive measures approximating frailty in a richly sampled longitudinal dataset on wild chimpanzees. Using urinary creatinine to...
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Energy investment in reproduction is predicted to trade off against other necessary physiological functions like immunity, but it is unclear to what extent this impacts fitness in long-lived species. Among mammals, female primates, and especially apes, exhibit extensive periods of investment in each offspring. During this time, energy diverted to g...
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Survival in primates is facilitated by commensal gut microbes that ferment otherwise indigestible plant matter, resist colonization by pathogens, and train the developing immune system.¹,² However, humans are unique among primates in that we consume highly digestible foods, wean early, mature slowly, and exhibit high lifelong investments in mainten...
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In humans, senescence increases susceptibility to viral infection. However, comparative data on viral infection in free-living non-human primates—even in our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos ( Pan troglodytes and P. paniscus )—are relatively scarce, thereby constraining an evolutionary understanding of age-related patterns of viral...
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Oxidative stress (OS) plays a marked role in aging and results from a variety of stressors, making it a powerful measure of health and a way to examine costs associated with life history investments within and across species. However, few urinary OS markers have been examined under field conditions, particularly in primates, and their utility to no...
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The habitats of wild primates are increasingly threatened by surrounding anthropogenic pressures, but little is known about primate exposure to frequently used chemicals. We applied a novel method to simultaneously measure 21 legacy pesticides (OCPs), 29 current use pesticides (CUPs), 47 halogenated flame retardants (HFRs), and 19 organophosphate f...
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Across vertebrates, species with intense male mating competition and high levels of sexual dimorphism in body size generally exhibit dimorphism in age-specific fertility. Compared with females, males show later ages at first reproduction and earlier reproductive senescence because they take longer to attain adult body size and musculature, and main...
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Social mammals often live in groups in which a dominance hierarchy is an important determinant of access to mates. In addition to competing individually, males may form coalitions of two or more to attack or intimidate rivals. Coalition formation could be particularly advantageous for adolescent males by helping them compensate for their physical a...
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Cortisol, a key product of the stress response, has critical influences on degenerative aging in humans. In turn, cortisol production is affected by senescence of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis, leading to progressive dysregulation and increased cortisol exposure. These processes have been studied extensively in industrialized settin...
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Objectives: Sodium, a vital micronutrient that is often in scarce supply for tropical herbivores, is sometimes found at high concentration in decaying wood. We tested two hypotheses for chimpanzees: first, that wood-eating facilitates acquisition of sodium; second, that wood-eating occurs in response to the low availability of sodium from other di...
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The development of the adrenal cortex varies considerably across primates, being most conspicuous in humans, where a functional zona reticularis–the site of dehydroepiandrosterone‐sulfate (DHEA/S) production–does not develop until middle childhood (5–8 years). Prior reports suggest that a human‐like adrenarche, associated with a sharp prepubertal i...
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Oxidative stress (OS) plays a central role in aging and results from a variety of stressors, making it a powerful measure of health and a way to examine phylogenetic variation in life history. However, few urinary OS markers have been examined under field conditions, particularly in primates, and their utility to non-invasively monitor acute vs. ch...
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Parallels in anatomy between humans and domesticated mammals suggest that for the last 300,000 years, Homo sapiens has experienced more intense selection against the propensity for reactive aggression than other species of Homo. Selection against reactive aggression, a process that can also be called self-domestication, would help explain various p...
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Daily energy intake of adult female mammals is influenced by environmental conditions and physiological requirements, including reproduction. We examined the effects of fruit availability on macronutrient and metabolisable energy intake by adult female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) of the Kanyawara community in Kibale National Park,...
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Anthropologists often assert that modern hunter-gatherer societies have been relegated to marginal habitats compared to their agricultural neighbors, with the implication that modern social organization and behavior provide little insight into Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. We refer to this idea as the marginal habitat hypothesis (MHH). Despite wide...
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In many group-living mammals, mothers may increase the reproductive success of their daughters even after they are nutritionally independent and fully grown [1]. However, whether such maternal effects exist for adult sons is largely unknown. Here we show that males have higher paternity success when their mother is living in the group at the time o...
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The significance of aquatic food resources for hominins is poorly understood, despite evidence of consumption as early as 1.95 million years ago (Ma). Here we present the first evidence of a non-human ape habitually catching and consuming aquatic crabs. Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in the rainforest of the Nimba Mountains (Guinea) consumed f...
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Long-term cooperation between individuals necessitates repairing damage arising from inevitable competing interests. How two members of a valuable relationship switch from competing to cooperating constitutes an important problem for any social species. Observations of non-human animals suggest that affiliative contact immediately following a conte...
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Respiratory viruses of human origin infect wild apes across Africa, sometimes lethally. Here we report simultaneous outbreaks of two distinct human respiratory viruses, human metapneumovirus (MPV; Pneumoviridae: Metapneumovirus) and human respirovirus 3 (HRV3; Paramyxoviridae; Respirovirus, formerly known as parainfluenza virus 3), in two chimpanze...
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Respiratory illnesses have caused significant mortality in African great ape populations. While much effort has been given to identifying the responsible pathogens, little is known about the factors that influence disease transmission or individual susceptibility. In the Kanyawara community of wild chimpanzees, respiratory illness has been the lead...
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Across species, cooperative alliances must withstand internal tensions. The mechanisms by which allies respond to competing against one another have been studied extensively in non-human animals, but much less so in humans. In non-human species, affiliative physical contact and close proximity immediately following a contest are utilized to define...
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We describe a lethal respiratory outbreak among wild chimpanzees in Uganda in 2013 for which molecular and epidemiologic analyses implicate human rhinovirus C as the cause. Postmortem samples from an infant chimpanzee yielded near-complete genome sequences throughout the respiratory tract; other pathogens were absent. Epidemiologic modeling estimat...
Data
Information on rhinovirus C sequences used in phylogenetic analysis, epidemiologic transmission models for the 3 phases of the respiratory disease epidemic, and maximum-likelihood phylogenetic tree of adenoviruses from chimpanzee fecal samples.
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Two major types of aggression, proactive and reactive, are associated with contrasting expression, eliciting factors, neural pathways, development, and function. The distinction is useful for understanding the nature and evolution of human aggression. Compared with many primates, humans have a high propensity for proactive aggression, a trait share...
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Rules regulating social behavior raise challenging questions about cultural evolution in part because they frequently confer group-level benefits. Current multilevel selection theories contend that between-group processes interact with within-group processes to produce norms and institutions, but within-group processes have remained underspecified,...
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Among modern foraging societies, men hunt more than women, who mostly target relatively low-quality, reliable resources (i.e., plants). This difference has long been assumed to reflect human female reproductive constraints, particularly caring for and provisioning mates and offspring. Long-term studies of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) enable tests...
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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...
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Objectives: Primates have an extended period of juvenility before adulthood. Although dietary complexity plays a prominent role in hypotheses regarding the evolution of extended juvenility, the development of feeding behavior is still poorly understood. Indeed, few studies have investigated the timing and nature of feeding transitions in apes, inc...
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We thank van Leeuwen et al. [1] for their response to our finding that matrilineal relationships strongly influence the style of high-arm grooming in wild chimpanzees of the Kanyawara community. We agree with them that grooming styles could be transmitted by different mechanisms in different contexts, and we appreciate their effort to assess whethe...
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According to current evidence, Homo sapiens was unable to survive on a diet of raw wild foods. Because cooked diets have large physiological and behavioral consequences, a critical question for understanding human evolution is when the adaptive obligation to use fire developed. Archaeological evidence of fire use is scarce before ca. 400 ka, which...
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Objectives: Fecal particle size (FPS) as quantified by wet sieving analysis is a measure of chewing efficiency relevant for the understanding of physiological adaptations and constraints in herbivores. FPS has not been investigated systematically in frugivores, and important methodological problems remain. In particular, food items that are not ch...
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Non-dietary aspects of ape scats such as scat weight and diameter are correlated with age and sex of defaecator for gorillas and orangutans. Defaecation rates of primates, including apes, illuminate their role as primary seed dispersers. We assess if non-dietary features of scats for East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) reveal...
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High-arm grooming is a form of chimpanzee grooming in which two individuals mutually groom while each raising one arm. Palm-to-palm clasping (PPC) is a distinct style of high-arm grooming in which the grooming partners clasp each other's raised palms. In wild communities, samples of at least 100 observed dyads grooming with raised hands showed PPC...
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Intergroup violence is common among humans worldwide. To assess how within-group social dynamics contribute to risky, between-group conflict, we conducted a 3-y longitudinal study of the formation of raiding parties among the Nyangatom, a group of East African nomadic pastoralists currently engaged in small-scale warfare. We also mapped the social...
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The nature of ancestral human social structure and the circumstances in which men or women tend to be more cooperative are subjects of intense debate. The male warrior hypothesis proposes that success in intergroup contests has been vital in human evolution and that men therefore must engage in maximally effective intragroup cooperation [1-3]. Post...
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Life history theory predicts a trade-off between offspring quality and quantity. Among large-bodied mammals, prolonged lactation and infant dependence suggest particularly strong potential for a quality-quantity trade-off to exist. Humans are one of the only such species to have been examined, providing mixed evidence under a peculiar set of circum...
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Stable isotope analysis has long been used to study the dietary ecology of living and fossil primates, and there has been increasing interest in using stable isotopes to study primate habitat use and anthropogenic impacts on non-human primates. Here, we examine the stable carbon and nitrogen isotope compositions of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) fro...
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Figs are keystone resources that sustain chimpanzees when preferred fruits are scarce. Many figs retain a green(ish) colour throughout development, a pattern that causes chimpanzees to evaluate edibility on the basis of achromatic acces- sory cues. Such behaviour is conspicuous because it entails a succession of discrete sensory assessments, includ...
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Beran et al. (2015, p. 1) characterized the idea that "cooked food was integral in human evolution" as a "long-held hypothesis" favored by Darwin and Engels. In fact, however, although Darwin and Engels considered the use of cooked food to be an important influence on behavior and society, neither of them suggested that its effects were evolutionar...