Primate Behavioral Ecology


Baby Chimpanzee


In the GW Primate Behavioral Ecology Laboratory, scientists investigate the evolution of social behavior in the Pan species: chimpanzees and bonobos. Research poses one central question: Why be social? We explore this question through collaborative, on-the-ground research at the Gombe Stream Research Center in Tanzania. 

GW Associate Professor of Anthropology Carson Murray is one of the lead investigators of the Gombe Chimpanzee Research Project. The project allows our lab to combine new field data with over 50 years of long-term behavioral records. As the most extensive great ape dataset in the world, we can investigate social behavior across the chimpanzee lifespan and directly relate behavior to reproductive outcomes.



two chimpanzees sitting in a jungle



Key Factors Influencing Primate Social Behavior

  • Behavior
  • Physiology
  • Development
  • Hard Tissue
  • Health
  • Nutritional Ecology


Student Opportunities


Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Scientists

Master’s and doctoral students and postdoctoral scientists in the Anthropology Department’s Human Paleobiology focus work on topics in primate behavioral ecology. Learn more about our graduate degrees on the Department of Anthropology website or contact Carson Murray regarding open postdoc positions.


Undergraduate Interns

The Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab offers internships to motivated undergraduates. Interns work with the long-term behavioral database housed in CASHP, entering data on mother and infant behavior that came directly from the forests of Tanzania. Interns are also invited to engage in weekly lab meetings to learn about ongoing research! Contact Carson Murray if you are interested in becoming an intern in our lab.


Select Publications

Lonsdorf EV, Stanton MA, and Murray CM. 2018. Sex differences in maternal sibling-infant interactions in wild chimpanzees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 72: 117. 

Massaro AP, Boehm EE, Lonsdorf EV, Murray CMStanton MA, and Wilson ML. 2018. Copulation calls of female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) signal fertility. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 143: 1898-1898. 

Lonsdorf EV, Gillespie TR, Wolf TM, Lipende I, Raphael J, Bakuza J, Murray CM, Wilson ML, Kamenya S, Mjungu D, and Collins DA. 2018. Socioecological correlates of clinical signs in two communities of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology

Lantz EL, Lonsdorf EV, Heintz MR, Murray CM, Lipende I, Travis DA, and Santymire RM. 2018. Non-invasive quantification of immunoglobulin A in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology

Murray CMStanton MA, Wellens KR, Santymire RM, Heintz MR, and Lonsdorf EV. 2018. Maternal effects on offspring stress physiology in wild chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology.

Murray CMStanton MA, Lonsdorf EV, Wroblewski EE, and AE Pusey. 2017. Chimpanzee fathers bias their behaviour towards their offspring.  Royal Society Open Science 11: 160441.

Heintz MR, Murray CMMarkham AC, Pusey AE, and Lonsdorf EV. 2017. The relationship between social play and developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology

Stanton MA, Lonsdorf EV, Pusey AE, and CM Murray. 2017. Do juveniles help or hinder? Influence of juvenile offspring on maternal behavior and reproductive outcomes in wild chimpanzees. Journal of Human Evolution 111: 152-162. 

Gilby IC, Machanda ZP, O'Malley RCMurray CM, Lonsdorf EV, Walker K, Mjungu DC, Otali E, Muller MN, Thompson ME, Pusey AE, and RW Wrangham. 2017. Predation by female chimpanzees: Toward an understanding of sex differences in meat acquisition in the last common ancestor of Pan and Homo. Journal of Human Evolution 110: 82-94. 

Miller JAStanton MA, Lonsdorf EV, Wellens KRMarkham AC, and CM Murray. 2017. Limited evidence for third-party affiliation during development in wild chimpanzees. Royal Society Open Science 4: 170500. 

Lonsdorf EV, Gillespie TR, Wolf TM, Lipende I, Raphael J, Bakuza J, Murray CM, Wilson ML, Kamenya S, Mjungu D, and DA Collins. 2016. Socioecological correlates of clinical signs in two communities of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology.

Foerster S, Zhong Y, Pintea L, Murray CM, Wilson ML, Mjungu DC, and AE Pusey. 2016. Feeding habitat quality and behavioral trade-offs in chimpanzees: a case for species distribution models. Behavioral Ecology 24: 1004-1016.

Lantz EL, Lonsdorf EV, Heintz MR, Murray CM, Lipende I, Travis DA, and RM Santymire. 2016. Non‐invasive quantification of immunoglobulin A in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology.

Murray CMStanton MAWellens KR, Santymire RM, Heintz MR, and EV Lonsdorf. 2016. Maternal effects on offspring stress physiology in wild chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology.

O'Malley RC, Stanton MA, Gilby IC, Lonsdorf EV, Pusey A, Markham AC, and CM Murray.  2016.  Reproductive state and rank influence patterns of meat consumption by wild female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Human Evolution 90, 16-28

Markham AC, Lonsdorf EV, Pusey AE, and CM Murray. 2015. Maternal rank influences the outcome of aggressive interactions between immature chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour, 100: 192-198.

Stanton MA, Heintz MR, Lonsdorf EV, Santymire RM, Lipende I, and CM Murray.  2015.  Maternal behavior and physiological stress levels in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii).  International Journal of Primatology 36: 473-488.

Foerster S, McLellan K, Schroepfer-Walker K, Murray CM, Krupenye C, Gilby IC, and AE Pusey. Social bonds in the dispersing sex: partner preferences among adult female chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour 105:139-52.

Lonsdorf EV, Anderson KE, Stanton MA, Shender M, Heintz MR, and CM Murray. 2014. Boys will be boys: sex differences in wild infant chimpanzee social interactions.  Animal Behaviour 88: 79-83.

Lonsdorf EV, Markham AC, Heintz MR, Anderson KE, Ciuk DJ, Goodall J, and CM Murray. 2014. Sex differences in wild chimpanzee behavior emerge during infancy.  PLoS ONE: e99099.

Markham AC, Santymire RM, Lonsdorf EV, Heintz MR, Lipende I, and CM Murray. 2014. Rank effects on social stress in lactating chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour 87: 195-202.

Miller JA, Pusey AE, Gilby IC, Schroepfer-Walker K, Markham AC, and CM Murray. 2014. Competing for space: female chimpanzees are more aggressive inside their core areas than outside. Animal Behaviour 87: 147-152.

Murray CM, Lonsdorf EV, Stanton MA, Wellens KR, Miller JA, Goodall J, & AE Pusey. (2014). Early social exposure in wild chimpanzees: Mothers with sons are more gregarious than mothers with daughters.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111(51):18189-18194.

O’Malley RC & WC McGrew. 2014. Primates, insects and insect resources. Journal of Human Evolution 71: 1-3.

O’Malley RC & ML Power. 2014. The energetic and nutritional yields from insectivory for Kasekela chimpanzees. Journal of Human Evolution 71: 46-58.

Stanton MA, Lonsdorf EV, Pusey AE, Goodall J, and CM Murray. 2014. Maternal behavior by birth order in wild chimpanzees: Increased investment by first-time mothers. Current Anthropology 55: 483-489.

Tennie C, O’Malley RC, Gilby I . 2014. Why do chimpanzees hunt? A cost-benefit analysis of acquiring and consuming vertebrate versus invertebrate prey. Journal of Human Evolution 71: 38-45.


Murray CM, Heintz M, Lonsdorf EV, Parr LA, and RM Santymire. 2013. Validation of a field technique and characterization of fecal glucocorticoid metabolite analysis in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology 75: 57-84.

O’Malley RC, Wallauer W, Murray CM, and J Goodall. 2012. The appearance and spread of ant-fishing among the Kasekela chimpanzees of Gombe: A case of inter-community transmission of a cultural behavior? Current Anthropology 53: 650-663.

O’Malley RC, Power ML. 2012. Nutritional composition of actual and potential insect prey for the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 149(4): 493-503.

Stewart FA, Piel AK, O’Malley RC. 2012. Responses of chimpanzees to a recently dead community member at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. American Journal of Primatology 74(1): 1-7.

Lonsdorf EV, Murray CM, Lonsdorf EV, Travis DA, Gilby IC, Chosy J, Goodall J, and AE Pusey. 2011. A retrospective analysis of factors correlated to chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) respiratory health at Gombe National Park. Ecohealth 8: 26-35.

Jones JH, Wilson ML, Murray CM, and AE Pusey. 2010. Phenotypic quality influences fertility in Gombe Chimpanzees. Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 1262-1269.

O’Malley RC. 2010. Two observations of predation on galagos by Gombe chimpanzees. Pan Africa News 17(2): 17-19.

Scheffrahn RH, O’Malley RC. 2010. A new termite (Isoptera: Termitidae: Termitinae: Proboscitermes) from Tanzania. Zootaxa 2670: 52-58.

Murray CM, Lonsdorf EV, Eberly LE, and AE Pusey. 2009. Rank-dependent reproductive energetics in free-living female chimpanzees. Behavioral Ecology 20: 1211-1216.

Wroblewski EE, Murray CM, Keele B, Hahn B, Schumacher-Stankey J, and AE Pusey. 2009. Male dominance rank and reproductive success in wild chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour 77: 873-885.

Foster MW, Gilby IC, Murray CM, Johnson A, Wroblewski EE, and AE Pusey. 2009. Alpha male chimpanzee grooming patterns: implications for dominance ‘style’. American Journal of Primatology 71: 136-144.

Murray CM, Gilby I, Mane SV, and AE Pusey. 2008. Male chimpanzees inherit maternal ranging patterns. Current Biology 18: 20–24.

Stanford CB, O’Malley RC. 2008. Sleeping tree choice by Bwindi chimpanzees. American Journal of Primatology 70: 642-649

Murray CM, Mane SV, and AE Pusey. 2007. Dominance rank influences female chimpanzee space use: Towards an ideal despotic distribution. Animal Behaviour 74: 1795-1804.

Murray CM, Wroblewski EE, and AE Pusey. 2007. A new case of intra-group infanticide in the chimpanzees of Gombe National Park. International Journal of Primatology 28: 23-37.


Lab Researchers

Carson Murray

Carson Murray

Lead Investigator, Gombe Chimpanzee Research Project







Anne Pusey, Duke University

Jane Goodall Institute

Rachel Santymire, Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology


Ian Gilby, Arizona State University

Michael Wilson, University of Minnesota

Elizabeth Lonsdorf, Franklin & Marshall College

In addition, none of our work would be possible without the assistance of our talented Gombe field assistants.

Affiliated Lab Members

Kaitlin Wellens

Kaitlin Wellens

Postdoctoral Fellow
Trinity Washington University

Maggie Stanton

Maggie Stanton

Visiting Assistant Professor of Psychology
Franklin & Marshall College

Robert O'Malley

Robert O'Malley

Senior Program Associate
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Sean Lee

Sean Lee

Professorial Lecturer in Anthropology
The George Washington University

Former Lab Members


Jack Winans
Doctoral Student in Anthropology, Stony Brook University

Jordan Miller

Jennifer Nichols
Animal Care Professional, Birmingham Zoo

Anna Heffernan
Research Analyst, The Brattle Group


Rachel Sinsheimer
J.D. Candidate in Environmental Law, University of Washington School of Law

Helen Gaynor
Lead Education and Outreach,

A. Catherine Markham
Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Stony Brook University 


Victoria Fiorentino
Masters in Public Health Graduate Student, University of Minnesota

Aisha Mustapha
Medical Student, Case Western Reserve University of School of Medicine

Eva Schwartz
Behavioral Therapist, Muliticultural Clinical Center