Christine M. Drea
Earl D. McLean Professor
I have two broad research interests, sexual differentiation and social behavior, both focused on hyenas and primates. I am particularly interested in unusual species in which the females display a suite of masculinized characteristics, including male- like or exaggerated external genitalia and social dominance. The study of naturally occurring hormones in such unique mammals can reveal general processes of hormonal activity, expressed in genital morphology, reproductive development, and social behavior. Taking a combined laboratory and field approach allows me to relate captive data to various facets of the animals' natural habitat, thereby enhancing the ecological validity of assay procedures and enriching interpretation in an evolutionary framework. The goal of comparative studies of hyenas and lemurs is to help elucidate the mechanisms of mammalian sexual differentiation.
My research program in social behavior focuses on social learning and group cohesion. Using naturalistic tasks that I present to captive animals in socially relevant contexts, I can investigate how social interaction modulates behavior, problem- solving, and cognitive performance. By studying and comparing models of carnivore and primate foraging, I can better understand how group-living animals modify their actions to meet environmental demands. A primary interest is determining whether similar factors, related to having a complex social organization, influence learning and performance across taxonomic groups. I am also interested in how animals learn rules of social conduct and maintain social cohesion, as evidenced by their patterns of behavioral developmental, the intricate balance between aggression and play, the expression of scent marking, and the social facilitation or inhibition of behavior.
Delbarco-Trillo, J., et al. “Night and day: the comparative study of strepsirrhine primates reveals socioecological and phylogenetic patterns in olfactory signals..” Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 24, no. 1, Jan. 2011, pp. 82–98. Epmc, doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02145.x. Full Text
Crawford, Jeremy Chase, et al. “Smelling wrong: hormonal contraception in lemurs alters critical female odour cues..” Proceedings. Biological Sciences, vol. 278, no. 1702, Jan. 2011, pp. 122–30. Epmc, doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.1203. Full Text
Charpentier, M. J. E., et al. “Message 'scent': Lemurs detect the genetic relatedness and quality of conspecifics via olfactory cues.” Animal Behaviour, vol. 80, no. 1, July 2010, pp. 101–08. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2010.04.005. Full Text
Boulet, M., et al. “Honest olfactory ornamentation in a female-dominant primate..” Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 23, no. 7, July 2010, pp. 1558–63. Epmc, doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02007.x. Full Text
Burkert, Blake A., et al. “Mammalian chemical communication: Comparative investigation of urinary signals in prosimian primates.” Abstracts of Papers of the American Chemical Society, vol. 239, AMER CHEMICAL SOC, Mar. 2010.
Starling, Anne P., et al. “Seasonality, sociality, and reproduction: Long-term stressors of ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)..” Hormones and Behavior, vol. 57, no. 1, Jan. 2010, pp. 76–85. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2009.09.016. Full Text
Boulet, Marylène, et al. “Decoding an olfactory mechanism of kin recognition and inbreeding avoidance in a primate..” Bmc Evolutionary Biology, vol. 9, Dec. 2009. Epmc, doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-281. Full Text Open Access Copy
Drea, C. M. “Endocrine mediators of masculinization in female mammals.” Current Directions in Psychological Science, vol. 18, no. 4, Aug. 2009, pp. 221–26. Scopus, doi:10.1111/j.1467-8721.2009.01640.x. Full Text
Crawford, J. C., et al. “Lemurs Discriminate the Scent of Conspecifics Based on Individual Heterozygosity and Pairwise Relatedness.” Integrative and Comparative Biology, vol. 49, OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, Feb. 2009, pp. E41–E41.