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1.  Accelerated Diversification of Nonhuman Primate Malarias in Southeast Asia: Adaptive Radiation or Geographic Speciation? 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2014;32(2):422-439.
Although parasitic organisms are found worldwide, the relative importance of host specificity and geographic isolation for parasite speciation has been explored in only a few systems. Here, we study Plasmodium parasites known to infect Asian nonhuman primates, a monophyletic group that includes the lineage leading to the human parasite Plasmodium vivax and several species used as laboratory models in malaria research. We analyze the available data together with new samples from three sympatric primate species from Borneo: The Bornean orangutan and the long-tailed and the pig-tailed macaques. We find several species of malaria parasites, including three putatively new species in this biodiversity hotspot. Among those newly discovered lineages, we report two sympatric parasites in orangutans. We find no differences in the sets of malaria species infecting each macaque species indicating that these species show no host specificity. Finally, phylogenetic analysis of these data suggests that the malaria parasites infecting Southeast Asian macaques and their relatives are speciating three to four times more rapidly than those with other mammalian hosts such as lemurs and African apes. We estimate that these events took place in approximately a 3–4-Ma period. Based on the genetic and phenotypic diversity of the macaque malarias, we hypothesize that the diversification of this group of parasites has been facilitated by the diversity, geographic distributions, and demographic histories of their primate hosts.
PMCID: PMC4298170  PMID: 25389206
host range; macaques; malaria; orangutan; parasite speciation; phylogeny Plasmodium; population structure
2.  Relationships among Musical Aptitude, Digit Ratio and Testosterone in Men and Women 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(3):e57637.
Circulating adult testosterone levels, digit ratio (length of the second finger relative to the fourth finger), and directional asymmetry in digit ratio are considered sexually dimorphic traits in humans. These have been related to spatial abilities in men and women, and because similar brain structures appear to be involved in both spatial and musical abilities, neuroendocrine function may be related to musical as well as spatial cognition. To evaluate relationships among testosterone and musical ability in men and women, saliva samples were collected, testosterone concentrations assessed, and digit ratios calculated using standardized protocols in a sample of university students (N = 61), including both music and non-music majors. Results of Spearman correlations suggest that digit ratio and testosterone levels are statistically related to musical aptitude and performance only within the female sample: A) those females with greater self-reported history of exposure to music (p = 0.016) and instrument proficiency (p = 0.040) scored higher on the Advanced Measures of Music Audiation test, B) those females with higher left hand digit ratio (and perhaps lower fetal testosterone levels) were more highly ranked (p = 0.007) in the orchestra, C) female music students exhibited a trend (p = 0.082) towards higher testosterone levels compared to female non-music students, and D) female music students with higher rank in the orchestra/band had higher testosterone levels (p = 0.003) than lower ranked students. None of these relationships were significant in the male sample, although a lack of statistical power may be one cause. The effects of testosterone are likely a small part of a poorly understood system of biological and environmental stimuli that contribute to musical aptitude. Hormones may play some role in modulating the phenotype of musical ability, and this may be the case for females more so than males.
PMCID: PMC3592910  PMID: 23520475
3.  Ape Conservation Physiology: Fecal Glucocorticoid Responses in Wild Pongo pygmaeus morio following Human Visitation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33357.
Nature-based tourism can generate important revenue to support conservation of biodiversity. However, constant exposure to tourists and subsequent chronic activation of stress responses can produce pathological effects, including impaired cognition, growth, reproduction, and immunity in the same animals we are interested in protecting. Utilizing fecal samples (N = 53) from 2 wild habituated orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus morio) (in addition to 26 fecal samples from 4 wild unhabituated orangutans) in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary of Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, we predicted that i) fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations would be elevated on the day after tourist visitation (indicative of normal stress response to exposure to tourists on the previous day) compared to samples taken before or during tourist visitation in wild, habituated orangutans, and ii) that samples collected from habituated animals would have lower fecal glucocorticoid metabolites than unhabituated animals not used for tourism. Among the habituated animals used for tourism, fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels were significantly elevated in samples collected the day after tourist visitation (indicative of elevated cortisol production on the previous day during tourist visitation). Fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels were also lower in the habituated animals compared to their age-matched unhabituated counterparts. We conclude that the habituated animals used for this singular ecotourism project are not chronically stressed, unlike other species/populations with documented permanent alterations in stress responses. Animal temperament, species, the presence of coping/escape mechanisms, social confounders, and variation in amount of tourism may explain differences among previous experiments. Acute alterations in glucocorticoid measures in wildlife exposed to tourism must be interpreted conservatively. While permanently altered stress responses can be detrimental, preliminary results in these wild habituated orangutans suggest that low levels of predictable disturbance can likely result in low physiological impact on these animals.
PMCID: PMC3305311  PMID: 22438916
4.  The costs of dominance: testosterone, cortisol and intestinal parasites in wild male chimpanzees 
Male members of primate species that form multi-male groups typically invest considerable effort into attaining and maintaining high dominance rank. Aggressive behaviors are frequently employed to acquire and maintain dominance status, and testosterone has been considered the quintessential physiological moderator of such behaviors. Testosterone can alter both neurological and musculoskeletal functions that may potentiate pre-existing patterns of aggression. However, elevated testosterone levels impose several costs, including increased metabolic rates and immunosuppression. Cortisol also limits immune and reproductive functions.
To improve understanding of the relationships between dominance rank, hormones and infection status in nonhuman primates, we collected and analyzed 67 fecal samples from 22 wild adult male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda. Samples were analyzed for cortisol and testosterone levels as well as intestinal parasite prevalence and richness. 1,700 hours of observation data were used to determine dominance rank of each animal. We hypothesized that dominance rank would be directly associated with fecal testosterone and cortisol levels and intestinal parasite burden.
Fecal testosterone (but not cortisol) levels were directly associated with dominance rank, and both testosterone and cortisol were directly associated with intestinal parasite richness (number of unique species recovered). Dominance rank was directly associated with helminth (but not protozoan) parasite richness, so that high ranking animals had higher testosterone levels and greater helminth burden.
One preliminary interpretation is that the antagonist pleiotropic effects of androgens and glucocorticoids place a cost on attaining and maintaining high dominance rank in this species. Because of the costs associated with elevated steroid levels, dominance status may be an honest signal of survivorship against helminth parasites.
PMCID: PMC3004803  PMID: 21143892
5.  Testosterone correlates with Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus infection in macaques 
Virology Journal  2006;3:19.
Here we briefly report testosterone and cytokine responses to Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV) in macaques which were used as part of a larger study conducted by the Department of Defense to better characterize pathological responses to aerosolized VEEV in non-human primates. Serial samples were collected and analyzed for testosterone and cytokines prior to and during infection in 8 captive male macaques. Infected animals exhibited a febrile response with few significant changes in cytokine levels. Baseline testosterone levels were positively associated with viremia following exposure and were significantly higher than levels obtained during infection. Such findings suggest that disease-induced androgen suppression is a reasonable area for future study. Decreased androgen levels during physiological perturbations may function, in part, to prevent immunosuppression by high testosterone levels and to prevent the use of energetic resources for metabolically-expensive anabolic functions.
PMCID: PMC1450264  PMID: 16571136

Results 1-5 (5)