• Primate Reproductive Ecology and Evolution

    Department of Anthropology

    New York University

  • Welcome to the Primate Reproductive Ecology and Evolution group at NYU. We study the evolutionary and behavioral ecology of nonhuman primates, with a focus on sexual selection, reproduction, and communication.

  • Recent News

    Selected recent (2014 - present) press coverage

    Summary of our research on coloration

    On our research on drill coloration

    Grueter et al. 2015

    Grueter et al. 2015

    Fischer et al. 2015

    Fischer et al. 2015

    Fischer et al. 2015

    Allen & Higham 2015

    Allen & Higham 2015

    Allen & Higham 2015

    Allen & Higham 2015

    Allen & Higham 2015

    Hughes et al. 2015

    Dubuc et al. 2014

    Allen et al. 2014

    Allen et al. 2014

    Allen et al. 2014

    Allen et al. 2014

    Allen et al. 2014

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  • Research

    Our overall goal is to study genetical, morphological, physiological and behavioral aspects of primate reproductive strategies as shaped by sexual selection. Much of our work has a particular focus on communication and sensory and perceptual ecology, as well as the neuroendocrinological, physiological and immunological processes underlying mechanisms of competition and mate choice. Following Darwin, our research is structured around two related processes: the ways in which individuals compete with members of the same sex both directly and indirectly over reproductive opportunities (intra-sexual selection); and the ways in which individuals attract members of the opposite sex (inter-sexual selection).


    The methods used in our lab are diverse, and include techniques from ethology, physical anthropology, evolutionary biology, computer vision and machine learning, experimental and comparative psychology, endocrinology and immunology, and quantitative and functional genetics.


    A summary of our recent work on adaptive coloration can be found on BBC Earth.

  • Field Sites

    We are active at several field sites. Students may be able to undertake research at these sites, but are welcome to suggest others too.

    Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico

    Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. This island off the coast of Puerto Rico is home to over 1000 rhesus macaques and is administrated by the Caribbean Primate Research Center of the University of Puerto Rico. Our diverse work there includes collaborations with Dario Maestripieri (UChicago) and Laurie Santos (Yale).

    Tangkoko, Sulawesi, Indonesia

    Tangkoko, Sulawesi, Indonesia. This reserve in northern Sulawesi is home to several habituated groups of crested macaques, a critically endangered species of macaque known for its high levels of social tolerance between group members. The Macaca Nigra Project is hosted by the German Primate Center’s Jr Research Group on Sexual Selection, and is directed by Antje Engelhardt.

    Gashaka, Nigeria

    Gashaka, Nigeria. Gashaka-Gumti is Nigeria’s largest national park, and contains numerous primate species. Around the Kwano and Gashaka field stations are species including chimpanzees, baboons, tantalus monkeys, black and white colobus, putty-nosed guenons and mona monkeys. The site is directed by Volker Sommer (University College London), while the director of baboon research is Caroline Ross (Roehampton University, London).

  • Primate Hormones and Behavior Lab

    We have our own enzyme immuno-assay laboratory, in which we measure primate hormonal and immunological analytes, often measured as metabolites from excreta (feces and urine).

  • People

    Click on the photo to learn more

    James Higham


    Alex DeCasien

    PhD student

    Constance Dubuc

    Affiliated researcher

    Susie Lee

    PhD student

    Megan Petersdorf

    PhD student

    Rachel Petersen

    PhD student

    Benjamin Ragen


    Sandra Winters

    PhD student

    Will Allen

    Postdoc, alumnus

    Lauren Petrullo

    MA student, alumna

    Connie Rojas

    RA, alumna

    Louisa Radosevich

    RA, alumna

    Victoria Johnson

    RA, alumna

  • Publications


    As Editor


    Higham, J.P. & Roney, J. (Eds). 2017. Field endocrinology of nonhuman primates and humans.

    Hormones and Behavior


    Higham, J.P. & Hebets, E.A. (Eds). 2013. Multimodal communication.

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67 (9)


    Higham, J.P. & Semple, S. (Eds). 2013. Primate signals.

    American Journal of Primatology 75 (7)


    Higham, J.P. (Ed). 2009. Primate coloration: measurement, mechanisms and function.

    International Journal of Primatology 30 (6)


    Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles


    DeCasien, A.R., Williams, S.A. & Higham, J.P. 2017. Primate brain size is predicted by diet but not sociality.

    Nature Ecology and Evolution In Press


    Hammond, A.S., Johnson, V.P. & Higham, J.P. 2017. Hip joint mobility in free-ranging rhesus macaques.

    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 162: 377-384.


    Rigaill, L., MacIntosh, A.J.J., Higham, J.P., Winters, S., Shimizu, K., Mouri, K., Suzumura, T., Furuichi, T., Garcia, C. 2017. Testing for links between face color and age, dominance status, parity, weight, and intestinal nematode infection in a sample of female Japanese macaques.

    Primates 58: 83-91.


    Petrullo, L., Mandalaywala, T.M., Parker, K., Maestripieri, D. & Higham, J.P. 2016. Effects of early-life adversity on cortisol/salivary alpha-amylase symmetry in free-ranging juvenile rhesus macaques.

    Hormones and Behavior 86: 78-84.


    Higham, J.P. 2016. Field endocrinology of nonhuman primates: past, present and future.

    Hormones and Behavior 84: 145-155


    Dubuc, C., Allen, W.L., Cascio, J., Lee, D.S., Maestripieri, D., Petersdorf, M., Winters, S. & Higham, J.P. 2016. Who cares? Experimental attention biases provide new insights into a mammalian sexual signal.

    Behavioral Ecology 27: 68-74


    Grueter, C.C., Zhu, P., Allen, W.L., Higham, J.P., Ren, B. & Li, M. 2015. Sexually-selected lip colour indicates male group-holding status in the mating season in a multi-level primate society.

    Royal Society Open Science 2:150490


    Heistermann, M. & Higham, J.P. 2015 Urinary neopterin, a non-invasive marker of mammalian cellular immune activation, is highly stable under field conditions.

    Scientific Reports 5: 16308


    Fischer, J., Wheeler, B.C., & Higham, J.P. 2015. Is there any evidence for vocal learning in chimpanzee food calls?

    Current Biology 25, R1-R2


    Rigaill, L., MacIntosh, A.J.J., Higham, J.P., Winters, S., Shimizu, K., Mouri, K., Takeshi, F. & Garcia, C. Multimodal advertisement of pregnancy in free-ranging female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata).

    PLOS One 10(8): e0135127


    Higham, J.P., Kraus, C., Stahl-Hennig, C., Engelhardt, A., Fuchs, D. & Heistermann, M. 2015. Evaluating non-invasive markers of non-human primate immune activation and inflammation.

    American Journal of Physical Anthropology 158: 673-684


    Winters, S., Dubuc, C. & Higham, J.P. 2015. The looking time experimental paradigm in studies of animal visual perception and cognition.

    Ethology 121: 625-640


    Allen, W.L. & Higham, J.P. 2015. Assessing the potential information content of multicomponent visual signals: A machine learning approach.

    Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282: 20142284


    Hughes, K.D., Higham, J.P., Allen, W.L., Elliot, A.J. & Hayden, B.Y. 2015. Extraneous red drives female macaques’ gaze toward photographs of male conspecifics.

    Evolution and Human Behavior 36: 25-31


    MacLarnon, A.M., Sommer, V., Goffe, A.S., Higham, J.P., Lodge, E., Tkaczynski, P. & Ross, C. 2015. Assessing adaptability and reactive scope: a new measure and a case study of environmental stress in forest-living baboons.
    General and Comparative Endocrinology 215: 10-24


    Dubuc, C., Winters, S., Allen, W.L., Brent, L.J.N., Cascio, J., Maestripieri, D.M., Ruiz-Lambides, A., Widdig, A. & Higham, J.P. 2014. Sexually-selected skin color is heritable and related to fecundity in a non-human primate.

    Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20141602


    Dubuc, C., Ruiz-Lambides, A., & Widdig, A. 2014. Variance in male lifetime reproductive success and estimation of the degree of polygyny in a primate.

    Behavioral Ecology 25: 878-889.


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M., Parker, K.J. & Maestripieri D. 2014. Physiological and behavioral stress responses to weaning conflict in free-ranging primate infants.

    Animal Behaviour 91: 241-247


    Allen, W.L., Stevens, M & Higham, J.P. 2014. Character displacement of Cercopithecini primate visual signals.

    Nature Communications 5: 4266


    Higham, J.P. & Maestripieri, D. 2014. The costs of reproductive success in Cayo Santiago male rhesus macaques.

    International Journal of Primatology 35: 661-676


    Dubuc, C., Allen, W.L., Maestripieri, D. & Higham, J.P. 2014. Is male rhesus macaque red colour ornamentation attractive to females?

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68: 1215-1224


    Higham, J.P. 2014. How does honest costly signaling work?

    Behavioral Ecology 25: 8-11


    Allen, W.A., Scott-Samuel, N.E., Baddeley, R.J. & Cuthill, I.C. 2013. The evolution and function of pattern diversity on snakes.

    Behavioral Ecology 24: 1237-1250


    Dubuc, C., Coyne, S.P., & Maestripieri, D. (2013). Effect of mating activity and dominance rank on male masturbation among free-ranging male rhesus macaques.

    Ethology, 119: 1-8.


    Higham, J.P. & Hebets, E.A. 2013. An introduction to multimodal communication.

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67: 1381-1388


    Wilson A., Dean, M. & Higham, J.P. 2013. A game theoretic approach to multimodal communication.

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67: 1399-1415


    Higham, J.P., Pfefferle, D., Heistermann, M., Maestripieri, D. & Stevens, M. 2013. Signaling in multiple modalities in male rhesus macaques: barks and sex skin coloration in relation to androgen levels, social status and mating behavior.

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67: 1457-1469


    Semple, S. & Higham, J.P. 2013. Primate signals: Current issues and perspectives.

    American Journal of Primatology 75: 613-620


    Rigaill, L., Higham, J.P., Lee, PC., Blin, A. & Garcia, C. 2013. Multimodal sexual signaling and mating behavior in olive baboons (Papio anubis).

    American Journal of Primatology 75: 774-787


    Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M. & Maestripieri, D. 2013. The endocrinology of male rhesus macaque social and reproductive status: a test of the challenge and social stress hypotheses.

    Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67: 19-30


    Allen, W.L. & Higham, J.P. 2013. Analyzing visual signals as visual scenes.

    American Journal of Primatology 75: 664-682


    Allen, W.A., Baddeley, R.J., Cuthill, I.C. & Scott-Samuel, N.E. (2013) A quantitative test of the predicted relationships between countershading and lighting environment.

    The American Naturalist 180: 762-776


    Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M., Saggau, C., Agil, M., Perwitasari-Farajallah, D. & Engelhardt, A. 2012. Sexual signaling in the crested macaque and the evolution of primate fertility signals.

    BMC Evolutionary Biology 12: 89


    Mandalaywala, T.M., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M. & Maestripieri, D. 2011. Infant bystanders modulate the effects of ovarian hormones on socio-sexual behaviour in free-ranging female rhesus macaques.

    Behaviour 148: 1137-1155


    Higham, J.P., Girard-Buttoz, C., Engelhardt, A. & Heistermann, M. 2011 Urinary C-peptide of insulin as a non-invasive marker of nutritional status: some practicalities.

    PLoS One 6: e22398


    Higham, J.P., Hughes, K.D., Brent, L.J.N., Dubuc, C., Engelhardt, A., Heistermann, M., Maestripieri, D., Santos, L.R & Stevens, M. 2011. Familiarity affects assessment of facial signals of female fertility by free-ranging male rhesus macaques.

    Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278: 3452-3458


    Hoffman, C.L., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M., Prendergast, B., Coe, C. & Maestripieri, D. 2011. Immune function and HPA axis activity in free-ranging rhesus macaques.

    Physiology and Behavior 104: 507-514


    Girard-Buttoz, C., Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M., Wedegärtner, S., Maestripieri, D. & Engelhardt, A. 2011. Urinary c-peptide measurement as a marker of nutritional status in macaques.

    PLoS One 6: e18042


    Higham, J.P., Heistermann, M. & Maestripieri, D. 2011. The energetics of male-male endurance rivalry in rhesus macaques.

    Animal Behaviour 81: 1001-1007


    Higham, J.P., Barr, C.S., Hoffman, C.L., Mandalaywala, T.M., Parker, K.J. & Maestripieri, D. 2011. Mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) variation, oxytocin levels and maternal behavior in free-ranging rhesus macaques.

    Behavioral Neuroscience 125: 131-136


    De Vere, R., Warren, Y., Nicholas, A., MacKenzie, M.E. & Higham, J.P. 2011. Nest site ecology of the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) in the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, Cameroon, with special reference to anthropogenic influence.

    American Journal of Primatology 73: 253-261


    Higham, J.P. & Maestripieri, D. 2010. Revolutionary coalitions in male rhesus macaques.

    Behaviour 147: 1889-1908


    Higham, J.P., Vitale, A.B., Mas-Rivera, A., Ayala, J.E. & Maestripieri, D. 2010. Measuring salivary analytes from free-ranging monkeys.

    Physiology & Behavior 101: 601-607


    Hoffman, C.L., Higham, J.P., Mas-Rivera, A., Ayala, J.E. & Maestripieri, D. 2010. Terminal investment and senescence in rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago.

    Behavioral Ecology 21: 972-978


    Higham, J.P., Brent, L.J.N., Dubuc, C., Accamando, A,K., Engelhardt, A., Gerald, M.S., Heistermann, M. & Stevens, M. 2010. Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: a case study in the rhesus macaque.

    Behavioral Ecology 21: 739-746


    Higham, J.P. MacLarnon, A.M., Heistermann, M., Ross, C. & Semple, S. 2009. Self-directed behaviours and faecal glucocorticoid levels are not correlated in female wild olive baboons.

    Stress 12: 526-532


    Higham, J.P. Primate Coloration – An introduction to the special issue. 2009.

    International Journal of Primatology 30: 749-751


    Marty, J.M., Higham, J.P., Gadsby, E.L., & Ross, C. 2009 Color, dominance and social and sexual behavior in male drills.

    International Journal of Primatology 30: 807-823


    Stevens, M., Stoddard, M.C., & Higham, J.P. 2009. Studying primate color: towards visual system dependent methods.

    International Journal of Primatology 30: 893-917


    Higham, J.P., Semple, S. MacLarnon, A., Heistermann, M. & Ross, C. 2009. Female reproductive signals, and male mating behavior, in the olive baboon.

    Hormones and Behavior 55: 60-67


    Higham, J.P., Warren, Y., Adanu, J. Bubu, U. MacLarnon, A., Sommer, V. & Ross, C. 2009. Living on the edge: Life-history of olive baboons at Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria.

    American Journal of Primatology 71: 293-304


    Higham, J.P., MacLarnon, A., Ross, C., Heistermann, M. & Semple, S. 2008 Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color.

    Hormones and Behavior 53: 452-462


    Higham, J.P. Heistermann, M., Ross, C., Semple, S. & MacLarnon, A. 2008. The timing of ovulation with respect to sexual swelling detumescence in wild olive baboons.

    Primates 49: 295-299


    Higham, J.P., Ross, C., Warren, Y., Heistermann, M. & MacLarnon, A. 2007 Reduced reproductive function in wild baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis) related to natural consumption of the African black plum (Vitex doniana).

    Hormones and Behavior 52: 384-390


    Asakura, T., Umemura, K., Nakazawa, Y., Hirose, H., Higham, J.P. & Knight, D. 2007 Some observations on the structure and function of the spinning apparatus in the silkworm Bombyx mori.

    Biomacromolecules 8: 175-181


    Higham, J.P. & Gosler, A.G. 2006 Speckled eggs: water loss and incubation behaviour in the Great tit Parus major.

    Oecologia 149: 561-570


    Gosler, A.G., Higham, J.P. & Reynolds, S.J. 2005 Why are birds’ eggs speckled?

    Ecology Letters 8: 1105-1113


    Book Chapters


    Petersdorf, M. & Higham, J.P. 2017. Mating systems, Primates.

    In: International Encyclopedia of Biological Anthropology. John Wiley and Sons, Inc. Hoboken: New Jersey.


    Winters, S., Petersdorf, M. & Higham, J.P. 2017. Charles Darwin and selection in relation to sex in the colors of monkeys.

    In: Evolutionary studies: Darwin’s roadmap to the curriculum. Oxford University Press: Oxford


    Higham, J.P. 2017. Sperm competition.
    In: The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Wiley Blackwell. Hoboken: New Jersey. In Press


    Higham, J.P. & Petersdorf, M. 2017. Sexual swellings.
    In: The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Wiley Blackwell. Hoboken: New Jersey. In Press


    Petersdorf, M. & Higham, J.P. 2017. Mating systems.
    In: The International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Wiley Blackwell. Hoboken: New Jersey. In Press


    Higham, J.P. 2016. Multimodal Communication.

    In: The missing lemur link: an ancestral step in human evolution (Palagi, E. & Norscia I.) Cambridge University Press: Cambridge. In Press


    Higham, J.P. & Dubuc, C. 2015. The evolution of female fertility signals in macaques.
    In: eLS (Encyclopedia of Life Sciences). Wiley Blackwell. Hoboken: New Jersey. DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0024968


    Higham, J.P. & Winters, S. 2015. Color and mate choice in nonhuman animals.

    In: The handbook of color psychology Eds Elliot, A.J. & Fairchild, M.D. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. pp 502-530. ISBN: 978-1-107-04323-7


    Higham, J.P. 2013. Primate visual signals.

    In: McGraw-Hill Yearbook of Science and Technology 2014. McGraw-Hill Professional: New York


    Warren, Y., Higham, J.P., MacLarnon, A. & Ross, C. 2011. Crop-raiding and commensalism: the costs and benefits of living with humans.

    In: Primates of Gashaka Eds. Sommer, V & Ross, C. Developments in primatology: progress and prospects. Springer. Series Ed. Tuttle, R.H.


    Ross, C., Warren, Y., MacLarnon, A. & Higham, J.P. 2011. How different are Gashaka’s baboons? A comparison of forest-living and open-country populations.

    In: Primates of Gashaka Eds. Sommer, V & Ross, C. Developments in primatology: progress and prospects. Springer. Series Ed. Tuttle, R.H.


    Other journal publications


    Setchell, J.M., Fernandez-Duque, E. Higham, J.P., Rothman, J.M., Schulke, O. 2016. Editorial: Changes and clarifications to the policies of the International Journal of Primatology to promote transparency and open communication.

    International Journal of Primatology 37: 617-627.


    DeCasien, A.R., Evans, K.D., Fuong, H., Lee, D.S., Petersdorf, M., Petersen, R.M., Shackelford, C.M. (2016). Crickette M. Sanz, Josep Call, and Christophe Boesch (Eds.): Tool Use in Animals: Cognition and Ecology.

    International Journal of Primatology 37: 608-611.


    Petersdorf, M. & Higham, J.P. 2015. Katja Liebal, Bridget M. Waller, Anne M. Burrows, Katie E. Slocombe: Primate Communication: A Multimodal Approach.

    International Journal of Primatology 36: 1055-1059


    Winters, S. & Higham, J.P. 2015. Martin Stevens: Sensory Ecology, Behaviour, and Evolution.

    International Journal of Primatology 36: 205-208


    Dubuc, C. & Higham, J.P. 2014. Quite the complexion: rhesus monkey face redness is passed on to their offspring, and affects their reproductive fitness.

    Biosphere 2: 50-55


    Winters, S., Dunayer, E.S., Petersdorf, M., Simons, N.D., Tinsman, J. 2014. Primatology and Conservation in Hanoi, Vietnam.

    Evolutionary Anthropology 23: 201-204


    Higham, J.P., Amann, A.L., Bryer, M.A.H., Thompson, N.A. & Winters, S. 2013. Review of “The Evolution of Primate Societies” (Eds. John C. Mitani, Josep Call, Peter M. Kappeler, Ryne A. Palombit & Joan B. Silk).

    International Journal of Primatology 34: 1298-1303


    Higham, J.P. 2011. Review of “The Japanese Macaques” (Eds., Naofumi, N., Nakamichi, N. & Sugiura, H.).

    International Journal of Primatology 32: 1033-1036


    Semple, S., Higham, J.P., MacLarnon, A., Ross, C. & Lehmann, J. 2010. Comment on ‘Pan Thanatology’.

    Current Biology www.cell.com/current-biology/comments/S0960-9822(10)00145-4


    Wiseman, R., Warren, Y., Nicholas, A., MacKenzie, M., & Higham, J.P. 2008. A GIS habitat map for the Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, Cameroon.

    Gorilla Journal 37: 12-14


    Higham, J.P. & Bennett, D. 2008. Some observations on wildlife, and wildlife consumption, in Eastern Nigeria.

    Gorilla Journal. 36: 11-13

  • PhD Program in Anthropology

    New York University

    The research and training program in our department is distinguished by its unique commitment to integrating laboratory-based and field-based research. We have state-of-the-art laboratories in genetics and molecular systematics, endocrinology, and in paleoanthropology, with superb facilities for both research and teaching in these areas. In addition, faculty and students are conducting primatological and paleoanthropological research at sites in South America, Asia and Africa.

  • Teaching

    Recent courses (click to download syllabi)

    Fall 2016



    ANTH-GA 3391

    NYCEP Core - Behavior

    Spring 2016


    CORE-UA 305

    Human Origins


    ANTH-GA 3399

    Adv. Topics in Primatology

    Fall 2015


    ANTH-UA 511

    Primate Communication


    ANTH-GA 3391

    NYCEP Core - Behavior

    Fall 2014


    ANTH-UA 54

    Primate Behavioral Ecology


    ANTH-GA 3391

    NYCEP Core - Behavior

  • Affiliations