Primate societies are highly variable. Groups may differ in the level of stratification, in the degree of cooperation between related and possibly also unrelated individuals or in the way group members deal with conflicts. Variation may occur across different taxa, across populations or between the sexes. Based on evolutionary theory this variation in cooperation and competition evident across primate societies including our own can be explained by differential fitness payoffs. Linking the variation in social behavior to ecological and phylogenetic factors, investigating the different strategies for either sex, and determining the adaptive value of social behavior are research aims in the junior research group on social evolution in primates. Research in the group combines field studies on primates (mainly macaques) in their natural habitat with experimental approaches in captivity. We use molecular techniques to monitor reproductive status, physiological dispositions for cooperation and competition and genetic relatedness. Using comparative methods and agent based modeling we work on identifying evolutionary patterns and generating clearly directed predictions.
Together with Dr. Oliver Schülke Julia Ostner leads a field project on the social evolution of wild macaques in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary where we study a group of Assamese macaques since 2005 (more). Students, PhD students and assistants jointly supervised by Julia Ostner and Oliver Schülke also work at Affenberg Salem and in Morocco (field project of Dr. Bonaventura Majolo, Lincoln University, UK) on Barbary macaques, Macaca sylvanus, in Indonesia on Mentawai macaques, Macaca siberu (Siberut Conservation Project von Dr. Keith Hodges, DPZ) and on Sulawesi on crested black macaques, Macaca nigra (field project of Dr. Antje Engelhardt, DPZ).