Andrew Zamora, Ph.D Candidate in the Anthropology Department has been awarded an NSF Dissertation improvement grant to support his research entitled, "Sociogenomic evolution of sifakas (Propithecus)
P.I. Dr. Jason M. Kamilar
Duration: January 2020-December 2021
Abstract on research and grant award:
Primatologists have traditionally explained variation in primate social behavior as a function of forces originating from the ecological environment. A growing body of literature continues to document the influence of genetics on social behavior variation across individuals and even species separated by over a hundred million years of evolution. I will use whole genome sequencing to examine how entire genetic networks encompassing hundreds of genes involved in regulating the neural and hormonal dimensions of social behavior have evolved across sifakas, a behaviorally and ecologically diverse group of lemurs from Madagascar. I will be examining the relative contributions of ecological and social environment differences across sifaka species to both protein-coding and regulatory evolution in these "sociogenomic" networks. My project can provide important insights into genomic contributions to social behavior evolution in both humans and non-human primates. This will allow us to better understand how genetics, ecology, and the social environment influences the evolution of primate behavior. In turn, the results could have compelling connections to human sociality and culture. Many of the genetic pathways being investigated in this project have also been implicated in the development and expression of various psychiatric illnesses. Moreover, all sifaka species are threatened with extinction and several are considered critically endangered. The whole genome sequences produced by my project would allow for further investigations into the demographic history and genetic health of these endangered primates.