The NIH/NCRR sponsored breeding programs of the National Primate Research Centers commonly house rhesus macaques in multimale-multifemale social groups in large outdoor corrals. This breeding program aims to develop cost-effective methods for enhancing reproduction to increase the number of monkeys available for research and to provide appropriate socialization for their psychological well-being. Although these outdoor corrals simulate natural social and environmental features, one of the most difficult problems in managing socially-housed macaques is their propensity for deleterious aggression. From a management perspective, such aggression is undoubtedly the most problematic behavior observed in group-housed rhesus macaques which can readily escalate to the degree that it results in serious physical trauma, lower reproductive performance and reduced psychological well-being. For over three years we have been conducting an NIH-funded R24 study using social network analysis to examine the internal (e.g. group composition, personality and temperament) and external (e.g., management factors) that influence rates of deleterious aggression and wounding in group-housed rhesus macaques. Our research has provided strong evidence that individual, family and group characteristics such as temperament, family structure and sex ratio interact to influence network structures such as patterns of submission, reconciliation, grooming and conflict intervention that are indicative of group stability and consequent deleterious aggression and wounding in captive rhesus macaques. The goal of this competitive renewal is to actively apply these results, which delineates three major pathways for reducing deleterious aggression/wounding in rhesus groups, to implement a series of perturbations that will experimentally test our correlational findings. Experimental perturbation of the pathways most important to reducing social instability will be conducted to causally validate which pathways are critical for group stability. This validation will allow us to advise colony managers at NPRCs and other primate facilities to use active and adaptive approach to management to reduce deleterious aggression and prevent severe outbreaks in arouo-housed rhesus macaques.

Public Health Relevance

This study will advance the current understanding of deleterious aggression in captive nonhuman primates using an experimental social network approach that will allow the development of an adaptive management program for primate facilities that will enhance group stability and successfully reduce deleterious aggression and prevent severe outbreaks in group-housed rhesus macaques. Rhesus macaques are an important biomedical model for human health research so this research is relevant by addressing the 3R's.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
Resource-Related Research Projects (R24)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
National Center for Research Resources Initial Review Group (RIRG)
Program Officer
Watson, William T
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Davis
Veterinary Sciences
Other Domestic Higher Education
United States
Zip Code
McCowan, Brenda; Beisner, Brianne; Hannibal, Darcy (2018) Social management of laboratory rhesus macaques housed in large groups using a network approach: A review. Behav Processes 156:77-82
Seil, Shannon K; Hannibal, Darcy L; Beisner, Brianne A et al. (2017) Predictors of insubordinate aggression among captive female rhesus macaques. Am J Phys Anthropol 164:558-573
Theil, Jacob H; Beisner, Brianne A; Hill, Ashley E et al. (2017) Effects of Human Management Events on Conspecific Aggression in Captive Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta). J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci 56:122-130
Beisner, Brianne A; Jin, Jian; Fushing, Hsieh et al. (2015) Detection of social group instability among captive rhesus macaques using joint network modeling. Curr Zool 61:70-84
Fushing, Hsieh; Jordà, Òscar; Beisner, Brianne et al. (2014) Computing Systemic Risk Using Multiple Behavioral and Keystone Networks: The Emergence of a Crisis in Primate Societies and Banks. Int J Forecast 30:797-806
Shev, Aaron; Fujii, Kevin; Hsieh, Fushing et al. (2014) Systemic testing on Bradley-Terry model against nonlinear ranking hierarchy. PLoS One 9:e115367
Beisner, Brianne A; McCowan, Brenda (2014) Signaling context modulates social function of silent bared-teeth displays in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Am J Primatol 76:111-21
Chan, Stephanie; Fushing, Hsieh; Beisner, Brianne A et al. (2013) Joint modeling of multiple social networks to elucidate primate social dynamics: I. maximum entropy principle and network-based interactions. PLoS One 8:e51903
Fushing, Hsieh; Wang, Hui; Vanderwaal, Kimberly et al. (2013) Multi-scale clustering by building a robust and self correcting ultrametric topology on data points. PLoS One 8:e56259
Beisner, Brianne A; McCowan, Brenda (2013) Policing in nonhuman primates: partial interventions serve a prosocial conflict management function in rhesus macaques. PLoS One 8:e77369

Showing the most recent 10 out of 19 publications