Date of Award

Spring 4-1-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Michelle L. Sauther

Second Advisor

Herbert H. Covert

Third Advisor

Joanna E. Lambert


There has been little emphasis within primatology on the social and behavioral strategies old primates might use to meet the challenges of senescence while maintaining social engagement, such as assuming a group role like navigator. Understanding how old primates maintain sociality can reveal how behavioral flexibility might have facilitated an increase in longevity within the order. Using focal sampling of old (N = 9, 10+ years) and adult (N = 6, <10 years) Lemur catta at the Duke Lemur Center, activity budgets, social interactions, and group traveling information were recorded and compared from May to August of 2016. I found that both male and female old lemurs maintained sociality in the group, with older females being more social than adults. I failed to support the second hypothesis that older individuals would have a behavioral profile distinct from adults. Finally, I found preliminary support that older females help care for a daughter’s offspring in the form of carrying. These results indicate that social manifestations of age and senescence depend on a myriad of factors such as environment, life history, and individual personalities. This research also reveals the importance of decoupling ideas of chronological age, being an old individual, with senescence because somatic decline depends on these other factors besides age. Understanding these complex interactions is essential as we strive to define senescence and explore how age has shaped evolutionary trajectories among primates.