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1.  Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) as Living Fossils of Hominoid Personality and Subjective Well-being 
Personality dimensions capturing individual differences in behavior, cognition, and affect have been described in several species, including humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans. However, comparisons between species are limited by the use of different questionnaires. We asked raters to assess free-ranging rhesus macaques at two time points on personality and subjective well-being questionnaires used earlier to rate chimpanzees and orangutans. Principal-components analysis yielded domains we labeled Confidence, Friendliness, Dominance, Anxiety, Openness, and Activity. The presence of Openness in rhesus macaques suggests it is an ancestral characteristic. The absence of Conscientiousness suggests it is a derived characteristic in African apes. Higher Confidence and Friendliness, and lower Anxiety were prospectively related to subjective well-being, indicating that the connection between personality and subjective well-being in humans, chimpanzees, and orangutans is ancestral in catarrhine primates. As demonstrated here, each additional species studied adds another fold to the rich, historical story of primate personality evolution.
PMCID: PMC4214372  PMID: 21341912
2.  Plasma cortisol responses to stress in lactating and nonlactating female rhesus macaques 
Hormones and behavior  2007;53(1):10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.09.013.
Lactating female rats without their pups exhibit lower HPA responsiveness to stress than nonlactating females. However, responsiveness to stress is similar when lactating females are tested with their pups and the stressor involves a potential threat to the offspring. This study constitutes the first comparison of stress responsiveness in lactating and nonlactating female nonhuman primates. Subjects were 53 multiparous female free-ranging rhesus macaques. Approximately half of the females were lactating and half were nonpregnant/nonlactating. Blood samples were obtained after capture and after overnight housing in an individual cage. Lactating females were tested with their infants. Lactating females had significantly higher plasma cortisol levels than nonlactating females on both days. Having or not having an infant was also a better predictor of plasma cortisol levels among all females than their age, dominance rank, group of origin, time of day at which the sample was obtained, and time elapsed since beginning of the sampling procedure or since anesthesia. Plasma cortisol levels of lactating females were not significantly correlated with post-partum stage or with the cortisol levels of their infants. Capture, handling, and individual housing in a cage are powerful psychological stressors for free-ranging primates. We suggest that the higher plasma cortisol levels exhibited by lactating females reflect greater responsiveness to stress associated with perception of risks to infants. Hyporesponsiveness to stress may not be a general characteristic of lactation in all mammalian species, but a short-term effect of infant suckling that is most apparent with stressors unrelated to the offspring.
PMCID: PMC3859185  PMID: 17963759
Responsiveness to stress; Cortisol; Lactation; Infants; Humans; Nonhuman primates
3.  Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: a case study in the rhesus macaque 
Behavioral Ecology  2010;21(4):739-746.
Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.
PMCID: PMC2892627  PMID: 22475874
color signaling; communication; receiver perception; visual discrimination threshold modeling
4.  Bystanders affect the outcome of mother–infant interactions in rhesus macaques 
Animal communication involves the transfer of information between a sender and one or more receivers. However, such interactions do not happen in a social vacuum; third parties are typically present, who can potentially eavesdrop upon or intervene in the interaction. The importance of such bystanders in shaping the outcome of communicative interactions has been widely studied in humans, but has only recently received attention in other animal species. Here, we studied bouts of infant crying among rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) in order to investigate how the presence of bystanders may affect the outcome of this signalling interaction between infants and mothers. It was hypothesized that, as crying is acoustically aversive, bystanders may be aggressive to the mother or the infant in order to bring the crying bout to a close. Consequently, it was predicted that mothers should acquiesce more often to crying if in the presence of potentially aggressive animals. In line with this prediction, it was found that mothers gave infants access to the nipple significantly more often when crying occurred in the presence of animals that posed a high risk of aggression towards them. Both mothers and infants tended to receive more aggression from bystanders during crying bouts than outside of this time, although such aggression was extremely rare and was received by less than half of the mothers and infants in the study. Mothers were also found to be significantly more aggressive to their infants while the latter were crying than outside of crying bouts. These results provide new insight into the complex dynamics of mother–offspring conflict, and indicate that bystanders may play an important role in shaping the outcome of signalling interactions between infants and their mothers.
PMCID: PMC2677605  PMID: 19324744
bystanders; audience; communication; crying; mother–offspring conflict; rhesus macaque

Results 1-4 (4)