Low Demographic Variability in Wild Primate Populations: Fitness Impacts of Variation, Covariation, and Serial Correlation in Vital Rates

Morris, William
Altmann, Jeanne
Brockman, Diane
Cords, Marina
Fedigan, Linda
Pusey, Anne
Stoinski, Tara
Bronikowski, Anne
Alberts, Susan
Strier, Karen
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In a stochastic environment, long-term fitness can be influenced by variation, covariation, and serial correlation in vital rates (survival and fertility). Yet no study of an animal population has parsed the contributions of these three aspects of variability to long-term fitness. We do so using a unique database that includes complete life-history information for wild-living individuals of seven primate species that have been the subjects of long-term (22–45 years) behavioral studies. Overall, the estimated levels of vital rate variation had only minor effects on long-term fitness, and the effects of vital rate covariation and serial correlation were even weaker. To explore why, we compared estimated variances of adult survival in primates with values for other vertebrates in the literature and found that adult survival is significantly less variable in primates than it is in the other vertebrates. Finally, we tested the prediction that adult survival, because it more strongly influences fitness in a constant environment, will be less variable than newborn survival, and we found only mixed support for the prediction. Our results suggest that wild primates may be buffered against detrimental fitness effects of environmental stochasticity by their highly developed cognitive abilities, social networks, and broad, flexible diets.


This article is from The American Naturalist 177 (2011): E14, doi: 10.1086/657443. Posted with permission.

covariation, demographic buffering, environmental stochasticity, long-term fitness, primate, serial correlation