Long-term Sabbatical

Principles of Primate Life Histories

PI(s): Carola Borries (Department of Anthropology)
Start Date: 1-May-2014
End Date: 31-Aug-2014
Keywords: life histories, database

Life history analysis is central to our understanding of the basic laws of nature with primates playing an important role because of their wide brain and body mass ranges and because data for many species are available. Generally, life history is interpreted along a fast-slow continuum with heavier, brainier species being slower. Alternatively, trade-offs between growth and reproduction and between reproductive events are emphasized. However, some studies now indicate that traits might have evolved independently. This project aims at identifying which principle best describes primate life histories. To improve the questionable accuracy of existing compilations and to avoid contradictory results, a new repository will be build containing only clearly defined variables, excluding data achieved with undisclosed or inappropriate methods. Only published values from primary sources will be included for gestation, age at last nipple contact, age at first reproduction, and interbirth interval. Phylogenetic comparative models and canonical correlation analyses will be used, considering five selective factors: mortality (arboreality), energy availability (BMR), protein availability (diet), amount of expensive tissue (brain, guts, teeth), and neonatal size (relative to maternal pelvis); and controlling for adult female body mass, nutrient availability, female dispersal, infant developmental states and care styles. Once the major principles are identified this will likely affect many areas including palaeoanthropology and other evolutionary sciences. The new repository will become publicly available to be expanded and kept active through updates; similar to GenBankĀ®. The project design could set an example for result management, sharing, and synthesis in Biological Anthropology and beyond.