Understanding the impact of kinship upon the evolution of social behavior is one of the central questions in Behavioral Ecology. Kin selection theory predicts that animals can increase their fitness by allocating more cooperation to kin than to non-kin. There is widespread evidence of favouring maternal kin in behaviour across mammals, including primates and in some species it has also been shown that females increase their fitness via associations with maternal kin. Less is known about paternal kinship (relatedness through the father).
In many social primates, females mate promiscuously (with more than one male) near the time of conception. Hence, in species with such a mating system, paternity can only be revealed to human observers via genetic techniques. To date we do not understand whether and how male and female primates can assess paternity and we only have limited information about the distribution of paternal kinship within and across social groups.
Furthermore, little is known about the impact of paternal relatedness upon the evolution of social behaviour as well as the underlying mechanism of paternal kin discrimination. The Junior Research Group of Primate Kin Selection aims to study a number of these questions (see research).