Christine M. Drea

Christine M. Drea

Earl D. McLean Professor

External address: 
129 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal office address: 
Duke Box 90383, 08 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708-0383
(919) 660-7367


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.

Degrees & Credentials

  • Ph.D., Emory University 1991

  • M.A., Emory University 1990

  • B.S., University of Maryland, College Park 1984

Selected Grants

Lemur Health, the Microbiome, and Condition-dependent Signals awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2021

Life in the wild takes guts: The gut microbiome relative to the phylogeny, folivory, and environment of endangered Malagasy lemurs awarded by Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2018

Linking Dietary Quality to the Gut Microbiome of Endangered Malagasy Primates awarded by Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2015 to 2017

Mechanisms of Female Dominance and Reproductive Skew in a Cooperative Breeder awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2016

REU Supplement: Mechanisms of Social Dynamics in Meerkats awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2010 to 2016

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: The Behavioral And Social Effects of Hormone Manipulation in Female-Dominant Lemurs awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2013 to 2015

Doctoral Dissertation Improvement: Impact of Genetic Health on Parasite Prevalence, Diversity, & Burden in Lemur catta awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2012 to 2015

Olfactory Communication in Primates awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2010


Greene, LK, McKenney, EA, O'Connell, TM, and Drea, CM. "The critical role of dietary foliage in maintaining the gut microbiome and metabolome of folivorous sifakas." Scientific Reports 8.1 (September 27, 2018): 14482-null. Full Text

Dimac-Stohl, KA, Davies, CS, Grebe, NM, Stonehill, AC, Greene, LK, Mitchell, J, Clutton-Brock, T, and Drea, CM. "Incidence and biomarkers of pregnancy, spontaneous abortion, and neonatal loss during an environmental stressor: Implications for female reproductive suppression in the cooperatively breeding meerkat." Physiology & Behavior 193.Pt A (September 2018): 90-100. Full Text

Smyth, KN, Caruso, NM, Davies, CS, Clutton-Brock, TH, and Drea, CM. "Social and endocrine correlates of immune function in meerkats: implications for the immunocompetence handicap hypothesis." Royal Society Open Science 5.8 (August 2018): 180435-null. Full Text

Harris, RL, Boulet, M, Grogan, KE, and Drea, CM. "Costs of injury for scent signalling in a strepsirrhine primate." Scientific Reports 8.1 (June 29, 2018): 9882-null. Full Text

Grogan, KE, Sauther, ML, Cuozzo, FP, and Drea, CM. "Genetic wealth, population health: Major histocompatibility complex variation in captive and wild ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta)." Ecology and Evolution 7.19 (October 2017): 7638-7649. Full Text

Leclaire, S, Jacob, S, Greene, LK, Dubay, GR, and Drea, CM. "Social odours covary with bacterial community in the anal secretions of wild meerkats." Scientific Reports 7.1 (June 12, 2017): 3240-null. Full Text

Davies, CS, Smyth, KN, Greene, LK, Walsh, DA, Mitchell, J, Clutton-Brock, T, and Drea, CM. "Exceptional endocrine profiles characterise the meerkat: sex, status, and reproductive patterns." Scientific Reports 6 (October 18, 2016): 35492-null. Full Text

Smyth, KN, Greene, LK, Clutton-Brock, T, and Drea, CM. "Androgens predict parasitism in female meerkats: a new perspective on a classic trade-off." Biology Letters 12.10 (October 2016). Full Text

Greene, LK, Wallen, TW, Moresco, A, Goodwin, TE, and Drea, CM. "Reproductive endocrine patterns and volatile urinary compounds of Arctictis binturong: discovering why bearcats smell like popcorn." Die Naturwissenschaften 103.5-6 (June 2016): 37-null. Full Text