14.12.2018 - 17:08
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Department of Primatology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299

Dr. Catherine Crockford

Independent Research Group Leader

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 805
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 and communication. Using the comparative approach, we use 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.

Some current questions of interest:

  • What triggers in-group cooperation and out-group aggression?
  • Why do chimpanzees cooperate more than bonobos?
  • What do chimpanzees gain from hunting together?
  • What do chimpanzees gain from reconciling?
  • Why do some chimpanzees adopt orphans?
  • How much do cognitive demands vary between primate species?
  • How much cognition is involved in chimpanzee vocal production?
  • How much does vocal production vary across chimpanzee groups?

ERC Research Group: The influence of early life experience on later social skills in chimpanzees

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.

Orphan, Eolos, adopted by adult male
Freddy. Photo: Liran Samuni ©



Current collaborations

  • Dr. Tobias Deschner, Head of Field Endocrinology Laboratory, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Gottfried Hohmann, Director of Lui Khotale Bonobo Field Site, Congo, and Group leader, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Martin Surbeck, Director of Kokolopori Bonobo Field Site, Congo, and Group leader, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Linda Vigilant, Group leader, Molecular Genetics Lab, primatology department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Richard McElreath, Director of Human Behavioural Ecology Department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Esther Herrmann, Group leader, Psychology Department, MPI EVA.
  • Dr. Sven Grawunder, Keele University.
  • Dr. Natalie Uomini, Jena Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  • Prof. Daniel Haun, Director Leipzig Research Center for Child Development, University of Leipzig.
  • Dr. Katie Cronin, Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago.
  • Dr. Fabian Leendertz, Group leader, Epidemiology of highly infectious diseases, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin.
  • Prof. Klaus Zuberbühler, Biology Department, University of Neuchatel.
  • Dr. Kevin Langergraber, Anthropology Department, Arizona State University.
  • Dr. Steve Smith, Konrad Lorenz Institute for Ethology, University of veterinary medicine, Vienna.

Current Lab Members

Post doctoral Researchers
  • Dr. Cedric Gerard-Buttoz: Variation in cooperation between wild chimpanzees and bonobos

  • Dr. Pawel Fedurek: Explaining heritable variation in social bonding capacities in chimpanzees

  • Dr. Ruth Sonnweber: The influence of variation in social cognition on social bonding capacities in chimpanzees

  • Dr. Patrick Tkaczynski: The influence of hormonal variation on social bonding capacities in chimpanzees, using a multi-hormonal approach
PhD Students
  • Anna Preis: Physiological costs of aggression and benefits of reconciliation in chimpanzees, Taï National Park, CI.

  • Liran Samuni: Underlying mechanisms of cooperation and in-group out-group dynamics in wild chimpanzees - a behavioral and physiological perspective.

  • Alex Mielke: Assessing social complexity and social cognition in sympatric chimpanzees and mangabays, Taï National Park, CI. 

  • Sylvain Lemoine: Intergroup spacing and relationships between four neighbouring
    chimpanzee communities

  • Clement Gba: Food competition in male and female mangabeys

  • Virgile Manin: Sociality, hormones and health

  • Prince Valé: Energy consumption and usage in wild chimpanzees