As a biological anthropologist, my research focuses on the evolution of human and non-human primate social and mating systems. Within this broad theoretical area, I am interested in the evolutionary origin and impact of female sociality and the complex interplay between male and female social and mating strategies.
I address these theoretical questions through field studies on wild bonobos (Pan paniscus), wild and free-ranging populations of several species of prosimian primates, primarily ruffed lemurs (Varecia variegata), ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), and brown lemurs (Eulemur fulvus), and free-ranging Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata), as well as in modern humans. These non-human primate species allow me to examine female sociality and power along a continuum of female influence within the social system.
In ruffed and ring-tailed lemurs, the females are dominant to the males; in brown lemurs, there is no sex-based dominance; in my principal study species, the bonobo, males are individually dominant to females but females are collectively dominant to individual males; and in Japanese macaques, males are consistently dominant to females despite strong female cohesion. Understanding the social and ecological pressures that drive the evolution of these aspects of non-human primate systems can then help me to reconstruct and test hypotheses on the evolutionary history of human sociality and mating systems.