Science Department, Roma Tre University EFP Unit of Cognitive Primatology, ISTC-CNR Italian Primatological Association

Invited Speakers

Scientific and Organising Committees are glad and honoured to present EFP 2015 Invited Speakers (listed in alphabetic order).

Michael A. Huffman
Associate Professor
Department of Social Behavior and Ecology, Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University

The evolution of self-medication in primates from a cross taxa comparative perspective.


Parasites and pathogens cause a variety of diseases that can affect the behavior and reproductive fitness of an individual and a variety of behavioral responses to parasitism have been reported. Primates have received growing attention for their ability to self-medicate in response to parasite infections. At our current level of understanding, health maintenance and self-medicative behaviors can be classified into four basic levels: 1) optimal avoidance or reduction of the possibility for disease transmission (avoidance of feces contaminated food, water, substrates);2) the dietary selection of items with a preventative or health maintenance affect (items eaten routinely in small amounts or on a limited basis); 3) ingestion of a substance for the curative treatment or control of a disease; and 4) application of a substance to the body or a living area for the control of disease transmission or a physical condition. Because the need to counteract such pressure is great, anti-parasitic behaviors are expected to occur throughout the animal kingdom. It should be no surprise then that primates are by no means unique in their ability to act in ways that prevent or minimize transmission or control existing parasite infections. Insects utilize the chemical defenses of plants to protect themselves from parasitoid predators and parasites. A number of anti-parasitic adaptations found in great apes for example have also been reported among mammals ranging from bats to bears. In this talk self-medication as an adaptive defense against parasites in primates will be described and compared with similar behaviors in other animal species.

Tetsuro Matsuzawa
Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University & Japan Monkey Centre‐

The Evolutionary Origins of Human Mind Viewed from the Study of Chimpanzees: The parallel efforts of Conservation and Welfare.


I compare cognitive development in humans with that of chimpanzees both in the wild and in the laboratory. This talk aims to highlight the similarity and the difference of the two species and to introduce the efforts of conservation and welfare as well. Young chimpanzees possess exceptional working memory capacities often superior to those of human adults. In contrast, their ability to learn the meaning of symbols is relatively poor. Human infants are typically raised by more than one adult, not only the mother, but also the father, siblings, grandparents, and the other members of the community. The human infant is characterized by the stable supine posture of the neonate that enables face-to-face communication via facial expressions, vocal exchange, manual gestures, and object manipulation because both hands are free. The stable supine posture makes us human. The socio-cognitive development in humans may be integrally linked to this mother-infant relationship and the species-specific way of rearing the children. In the process of studying chimpanzees, my colleagues and I have promoted the conservation in the wild chimpanzees: "Green Corridor" project of planting trees to connect the isolated habitats, Bossou and Nimba, Guinea. We have also promoted the environmental enrichment of the captive chimpanzees and succeeded to completely stop the invasive biomedical research on chimpanzees.

The International Primatological Society – President

Tetsuro Matsuzawa is a Professor at the Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan. He has studied chimpanzee cognition both in the laboratory and in the wild. The ‘Ai Project' began in 1978 with the study of language-like skills and number concepts in the female chimpanzee, Ai. As the parallel effort, since 1986, he has recorded the behavior of a group of chimpanzees in Bossou-Nimba, Guinea, West Africa. This population of chimpanzees use a pair of mobile stones, as hammer and anvil, to crack open oil-palm nuts. Researchers have documented this unique behavior in detail. His publications include: "Primate origins of human cognition and behavior", 2001; "Cognitive development in chimpanzees", 2006; "Chimpanzees of Bossou and Nimba", 2011. He was awarded the Jane Goodall Award in 2001, the Medal of Purple Ribbon in 2007, and the Person of Cultural Merit in 2013. He is also the Editor-in–chief of the journal “Primates”, the general director of Japan Monkey Centre, and the current President of the International Primatological Society.

Julia Ostner
Department of Behavioral Ecology, University of Göttingen

The evolution of social relationships among primate males.


While the evolutionary factors driving the variation in social relationships among female primates have been thoroughly conceptualized and repeatedly subjected to empirical testing, considerably less is known about the evolutionary drivers of male social relationships. A decade ago we initiated a study on the behavioural ecology of Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis) at the Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, with the specific goal to further our understanding of drivers and consequences of male cooperation and social bonding. Starting with the intensity of male competition, we found that in this highly seasonal reproducing species females conceal ovulation and confuse paternity effectively lowering male monopolization potential. Consequently, male mating and reproductive skew is very low in Assamese macaques of Phu Khieo. Consistent with theoretical models of male coalition formation which predict with decreasing contest potential an increase in risky (all-up) coalition formation (and consequently also of protective (all-down) coalitions) male Assamese macaques formed coalitions to acquire and maintain high dominance rank. Choice of allies for coalitions was linked to patterns of dyadic male affiliation, possibly because rank changing coalitions need some degree of reliability and predictability of partners. Affiliative relationships in these dispersing males were differentiated, with stronger relationships being more symmetric in exchanges and more stable over time. These social bonds may serve several benefits, as i) they may be the underlying, cognitively simple mechanism underlying partner choice in coalitions, ii) having social bonds may allow males to remain in their social group after losing high status and to invest in their genetic offspring as an alternative means to increase reproductive success in a low skew species and iii) social bonds may facilitate parallel dispersal and subsequent integration into a new group. We supplement our data on Assamese macaques with recent results on wild Barbary macaque cooperation and bonding and integrate these findings into a more comprehensive picture across male primates.

Dr. Elisabetta Palagi
Museo di Storia Naturale (Università di Pisa) & Istituto di Scienze e Tecnologie della Cognizione (CNR, Roma)

When play is a strategy game: an overview in adult primates.


A strategic game can be defined as a game in which players' autonomous decision-making skills have a high significance in determining the outcome. Although the definition is clearly designed for humans, it can also apply to some kinds of animal play, at least under some peculiar circumstances. Different from immature play, which has its main role in developing physical, cognitive and social skills, adult play is strategically employed to reach different goals depending on the social and environmental conditions in which the player acts. Playing with unrelated infants represents a social bridge which adults can use to broaden and strengthen their social networks. Cross-species comparison of the genus Macaca, characterized by different degree of tolerance, shows that the bridge strategy is particularly effective in tolerant species in which the social canalization of infants by the mothers is less severe and infants are allowed to playfully interact with other adults. Play involving only adults opens further scenarios regarding the potential roles of this versatile behaviour. Adult-adult play in primates is far more pervasive than previously thought and it seems to be a response to an immediate or delayed necessity which lies outside of the play session itself. Adult play in lemurs and bonobos can serve as an ice-breaker during inter-group social encounters or as a means for overtaking unexpected situations. In apes, play can act as a form of social currency that can rapidly shape social relationships, as it occurs around feeding time. The more the play, the more the co-feeding. A strategic game, worthy of its name, must rely on a complex communication based both on intentional and emotional components. In the same way, play in primates is a fertile field to explore how signals are integrated into complex and multimodal systems. In this view, play provides a window into the study of social cognition, emotional regulation and the evolution of communicative complexity.

Stephen J. Suomi
Laboratory of Comparative Ethology, NICHD, NIH

Behavioral, biological, and epigenetic consequences of early social experiences in rhesus monkeys.


It is now well-established that the types of early social attachment relationships rhesus monkey infants form with their caregivers can have dramatic behavioral, biological, and epigenetic consequences throughout development and beyond. Recent research has focused instead on the consequences of being raised by mothers who differ in their social dominance status. There are major differences in both social opportunities on a daily basis and long-term physical and psychological health outcomes between offspring of high vs. low-ranking mothers, and it appears that relative social dominance status is generally transmitted from mothers to their female offspring, i.e., high-ranking mothers typically rear daughters who themselves are high-ranking, at least initially, and low-ranking mothers usually have daughters who turn out to be low-ranking themselves. Very recent data suggest that such cross-generational transmission of relative dominance status may be in part epigenetically mediated through the placenta, i.e., there may be a biological mechanism through which specific social characteristics of certain individuals can be transmitted across generations.

Dipartimento di Scienze
Università degli Studi Roma Tre
Viale G. Marconi, 446 - 00146 Roma