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Proc Biol Sci. 2017 May 17;284(1854). pii: 20170515. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0515.

Family network size and survival across the lifespan of female macaques.

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Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour, School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
Caribbean Primate Research Center, University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus, Punta Santiago, Puerto Rico, USA.
Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Department of Marketing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.


Two decades of research suggest social relationships have a common evolutionary basis in humans and other gregarious mammals. Critical to the support of this idea is growing evidence that mortality is influenced by social integration, but when these effects emerge and how long they last is mostly unknown. Here, we report in adult female macaques that the impact of number of close adult female relatives, a proxy for social integration, on survival is not experienced uniformly across the life course; prime-aged females with a greater number of relatives had better survival outcomes compared with prime-aged females with fewer relatives, whereas no such effect was found in older females. Group size and dominance rank did not influence this result. Older females were less frequent targets of aggression, suggesting enhanced experience navigating the social landscape may obviate the need for social relationships in old age. Only one study of humans has found age-based dependency in the association between social integration and survival. Using the largest dataset for any non-human animal to date, our study extends support for the idea that sociality promotes survival and suggests strategies employed across the life course change along with experience of the social world.


ageing; life course; longevity; social connectedness; social relationships

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