08.08.2020 - 15:20
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Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture

Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (0)341 3550 - 315
fax: +49 (0)341 3550 - 333

e-mail: cissewski@eva.mpg.de

Dr. Catherine Crockford

Independent Research Group Leader

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 220
e-mail: crockfor@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de


Research Interests

Together with Roman Wittig, I co-direct the Tai Chimpanzee Project, Tai National Park, Ivory Coast, which currently has three habituated chimpanzee groups with a fourth under habituation, as well as one habituated sooty mangabey group. This is a dynamic group encompassing topics ranging from behavioural ecology and conservation to psychology and health and disease.

Together with my research group, I investigate questions related to the evolution of sociality, social cognition, communication and the brain. I examine these from a) comparative and b) developmental perspectives addressing questions of a) sociality, health and fitness; b) maternal effects on the development of sociality, cognition and communication; c) species and individual variation in communication and cognition and correlated neural correlates. I use long-term data sets of behavioural observations, non-invasive hormone sampling and field experiments to address these questions in chimpanzees and other wild primates, including bonobos, baboons and sooty mangabeys. In terms of the evolution of sociality, we examine underlying physiological and cognitive mechanisms that may explain links between stress, social bonds and cooperation, between non-kin as well as kin.

ERC project: The influence of early life experience on later social skills in chimpanzee

Social bonding success in life impacts on health, survival and fitness. It is proposed that early and later social experience as well as heritable factors determine social bonding abilities in adulthood, although the relative influence of each is unclear. In humans, the resulting uncertainty likely impedes psychological and psychiatric assessment and therapy. One problem hampering progress for human studies is that social bonding success is hard to objectively quantify, particularly in adults. I propose to directly address this problem by determining the key influences on social bonding abilities in chimpanzees, our closest living relative, where social bonding success can be objectively quantified, and variation in underlying hormonal and cognitive mechanisms can be examined.

We assimilate behavioural, non-invasively sampled hormonal and genetic data from five wild chimpanzee communities across two subspecies with the aim to assess the impact mothers have on offspring development and on their offspring’s future adult life, for example we test the impact of post-weaning maternal loss on offspring behaviour, hormones and reproductive success.


Current Lab Members

Post doctoral Researchers
  • Aisha Bründl: Chimpanzee developmental milestones and causes of variation
  • Dr. Cedric Gerard-Buttoz: Variation in cooperation between wild chimpanzees and bonobos
  • Kathrin Kopp: Mapping the behavioural and cognitive variation across chimpanzees in zoos and sanctuaries (Head of Unit)
  • Dr. Patrick Tkaczynski: The influence of hormonal variation on social bonding capacities in chimpanzees, using a multi-hormonal approach
PhD Students
  • Tatiana Bortolato
  • Clement Gba: Food competition in male and female mangabeys
  • Mathieu Malherbe
  • Virgile Manin: Sociality, hormones and health
  • Sylvain Lemoine: Intergroup spacing and relationships between four neighbouring
    chimpanzee communities
  • Prince Valé: Energy consumption and usage in wild chimpanzees
  • Veterinary Staff: Ariane Düx, Tobias Graessle, Jenny Jaffe
  • Research Assistants: Joe Broomfield, Sonja Ebel, Mathilde Grampp, Peter Niehoff, Pieter Nyssen, Isabella O’Neal
  • Technical staff: Amelie Pettrich, Tina Knittel
  • Post docs, Isaac Schamberg, Pawel Fedurek, Ruth Sonnweber, Natali Uomini.
  • PhDs: Alex Mielke, Liran Samuni, Anna Preis.

Current collaborations

  • Alfred Anwander, Neuropyschology Dept, MPI Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences, Leipzig
  • Jacinta Beehner, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
  • Thore Bergman, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
  • Tobias Deschner, Head of Field Endocrinology Laboratory, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Claudia Fichtel, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.
  • Angela Friederici, Director of Neuropyschology Dept, MPI Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences, Leipzig
  • Daniel Haun, Director Leipzig Research Center for Child Development, University of Leipzig.
  • Esther Herrmann, Group leader, Psychology Department, MPI EVA.
  • Gottfried Hohmann, Director of Lui Khotale Bonobo Field Site, Congo, and Group leader, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Sven Grawunder, Keele University.
  • Philipp Gunz, Human Evolution Dept, MPI EVA, Leipzig
  • Peter Kappeler, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.
  • Lydia Lunz, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • Alex Mielke, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • Markus Morawski, Paul Flechsig Institute of Brain Research, Leipzig.
  • Kevin Langergraber, Anthropology Department, Arizona State University.
  • Fabian Leendertz, Group leader, Epidemiology of highly infectious diseases, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin.
  • Richard McElreath, Director of Human Behavioural Ecology Department, MPI EVA.
  • Julia Ostner, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.
  • Liran Samuni, Harvard University, Boston, USA
  • Oliver Schülke, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany.
  • Steve Smith, Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, University of veterinary medicine, Vienna.
  • Martin Surbeck, Harvard University, Boston, USA.
  • Linda Vigilant, Group leader, Molecular Genetics Lab, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Nik Weiskopf, Director of Neurophysics Dept, MPI Human Cognitive & Brain Sciences, Leipzig 
  • Klaus Zuberbühler, Biology Department, University of Neuchatel.