Christèle Borgeaud

Domaines de recherche

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 advances. 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.


Christèle Borgeaud




+41 32 718 31 27

+41 32 718 31 25

Bureau D128