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Andreas Koenig & Carola Borries

Dr. Andreas Koenig
Associate Professor & Graduate Program Directory, IDPAS
Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

Dr. Carola Borries
Research Associate Professor
Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook University (SUNY)

Variation in the occurrence of infanticide among nonhuman primates and female countertactics

Monday, March 14, 2011
Science 1 149, 5:00 PM


Beginning with SB Hrdy’s proposal of the sexual selection hypothesis, infanticide is more and more viewed as a major force strongly affecting social systems of nonhuman primates. But despite an abundance of supporting evidence, the few reports of countertactics and the large variation in the occurrence of infanticide are still considered evidence against infanticide as a behavioral adaptation. Here we discuss these issues in light of results from our studies on colobine monkeys. We present evidence for female countertactics (e.g., paternity confusion, early weaning, dispersal), discuss the effects of female reproductive condition on different countertactics, and estimate their costs. In addition, proceeding from previous modeling and empirical findings on the variation of infanticide across primate populations, we show that while infanticide can be extremely rare, for instance in monogamous species, it nevertheless seems to be the primary force for males to stay with females in order to protect their offspring. These results add to the mounting evidence for the importance of infanticide in social evolution.


Andreas received his PhD in Biology with a concentration in Biological Anthropology in 1992 from the Georg-August University of Goettingen, Germany, followed by post-doctoral work at the Natural History Museum (Katmandu, Nepal) and the German Primate Center (Goettingen).

Since 1999 he is teaching at Stony Brook University, where he currently is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Program Director of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences (IDPAS). He conducted observational and experimental research in captivity (South American callitrichines) and field work in Nepal and Thailand (Asian colobines). Andreas’ research revolves around the evolution of sociality and social behavior in nonhuman primates digressing occasionally into community ecology, reproductive seasonality, life history, taxonomy, and research methods. To test hypotheses about predator-prey interactions, reproductive strategies, and cooperative infant care, he worked with communally breeding callitrichines (primarily common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus). More recently he focused on costs and benefits of sociality, the ecology of female social relationships, and male reproductive strategies. Because colobine monkeys appear to contrast standard socioecological explanations, he used wild Hanuman langurs (Semnopithecus entellus) and Phayre’s leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus phayrei crepusculus) as study subject for these topics.

Carola received her PhD in Biology with a concentration in Biological Anthropology in 1989 from the Georg-August University of Goettingen, Germany, followed by post-doctoral work at the Natural History Museum (Katmandu, Nepal) and the German Primate Center (Goettingen). She came to Stony Brook in 1999 and is currently a Research Associate Professor and a member of the Interdepartmental Doctoral Program in Anthropological Sciences (IDPAS). She conducted field work in India, Nepal, and Thailand (Asian colobines). Carola’s research focuses on socioecological models, reproductive strategies (especially sexual conflict), and life history and is based on behavioral, ecological, hormonal, and genetic data of wild primate populations. Most of her research deals with Asian colobines, a taxon that is widely distributed but not well studied in contrast to its sister taxon (cercopithecines), which provides the majority of data in primate behavioral ecology. Due to specific morphological adaptations, however, colobines have likely developed different solutions to similar challenges in the past rendering them strong test cases for current socioecological models. In addition to colobines, she has published on the behavioral ecology of lesser and great apes.


  • Borries, C., Savini, T., and Koenig, A. “Social monogamy and the threat of infanticide in larger mammals.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2010. [PDF; see also supplement 1 and supplement 2]
  • Zhao, Q., Borries, C., and Pan, W. “Male takeover, infanticide, and female countertactics in white-headed leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus leucocephalus).” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 2011. [PDF]


Seminar Recording:

Poster (PDF):