Biological Demography of Primate Species


CPHA's new emergent strength in biodemography is the comparative study of social determinants in both human and nonhuman primate populations. A key research focus is the relationship of Aging and external social factors in both of these populations. CPHA researchers examine how external social factors, such as population hierarchies and social connectivity, influence relative longevity and physiological conditions such as inflammation.

CPHA researchers Susan Alberts (Biology) and Jenny Tung (Evolutionary Anthropology) and their students study nonhuman primates, including Baboons and Macaques. They examine the primates both in the wild—utilizing the Amboseli Research Project—and in captivity in regional Primate Centers. The researchers use observational and experimental methods to identify the causal mechanisms underlying differential aging. As a result, they have identified the impact of social rank and social integration (marginalization) on aging and mortality in these populations.

Jenny Tung also conducts experimental work with Macaques at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center to identify how social status alters immune regulation and response to infections, which accelerates the process of aging. This innovative project is a model of cross-fertilization between social science and evolutionary anthropology.

Jenny Tung, Evolutionary Anthropology, Discusses Her Work


CPHA also leads the Social and Biological Determinants of Health Working Group, a collaborative, interinstitutional effort. The group examines ways to integrate biological concepts used in primate research with demographic concepts from human population aging research. Biologists, demographers, epidemiologists and developmental psychologists share a mission of integrating theory and methods to create and maintain a collaborative platform for comparative projects across human and nonhuman species.