Male chimpanzees and baboons compete for dominance rank and for access to receptive females. The ultimate goal of the project is to determine how male reproductive success is influenced by such physical traits as body size, canine length and morphological symmetry and by such behavioral strategies as social dominance, alliance formation, paternal care and the cultivation of long-term relationships with females. Dr. Pusey's research will be carried out on the chimpanzees and baboons of Gombe National Park on populations that have been studied for nearly 40 years. This is an extraordinary database upon which to anchor interpretations of the results from this project. The immediate goal is to perfect techniques for paternity exclusions by extracting DNA from fecal samples and hair. Samples will be collected as part of the long-term studies at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Various extraction techniques will be tested, and human MapPairTM primers will be screened to identify genetic markers in chimpanzees and baboons that exhibit necessary levels of heterozygosity yet whose alleles are sufficiently distinguishable from humans to minimize problems associated with contamination.
Measuring the relationship between physical prowess, symmetry, dominance rank, and reproductive success will increase understanding of the evolution of sexual dimorphism and the importance of symmetry in indicating "quality." Measuring the effects of behavioral strategies will reveal the extent to which male mating competition has driven the evolution of complex social behavior. Because these genetic techniques are non-invasive, the project will greatly enhance the ability to monitor levels of inbreeding in endangered populations.