After 8 months spent in South Africa for my master thesis on vervet monkeys
and almost 2 years at the Kalahari Meerkat Project as a data manager,
I started my PhD in the vervet monkey project. For me, sociability and
cooperation found in primates and species like meerkats are the most
interesting subjects that ethology is studying. Experiments in the field will
help to understand how such mechanisms work.
The title of my PhD is «Strategic social behaviour in wild vervet monkeys».
The Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis proposes that a complex social
environment selected for advanced cognitive abilities in vertebrates,
especially in primates. Primates typically live in stable social groups where
competition over resources like food and mating partners selects for cognitive
It has been shown that primates are using different techniques like knowledge
of third party relationship, deception, manipulation or coalition formation to
succeed in social challenges. However, experiments, especially in the field,
are still missing to prove this hypothesis. Baboons have been shown to know
the entire hierarchy, especially females’ hierarchy, and the different matrilines
of their group. However, baboons have the largest neocortex within the Old
World monkeys. I would like to conduct the same experiments on 3 different
groups of vervet monkeys. Then I would like to go further and test if females
also know the males’ hierarchy and additionally do some experiments to test
if vervets can use this knowledge in a strategic way to increase their gains.