Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Fall 2013

Document Type




First Advisor

Michelle Sauther


This thesis explores the relationship between stress, measured by glucocorticoid levels, and parasites in primate taxa to evaluate physiological and behavioral responses to humaninduced and environmental change. By conducting an in-depth literature review, data was collected from relevant studies and compared in novel ways to try and create a primate behavioral template. Fragmented and disturbed habitats were compared to intact environments. In general, across taxa primates living in anthropogenically disturbed sites exhibited elevated parasite loads and glucocorticoid levels, as was expected. Notable exceptions to this trend indicate that a more detailed consideration of the kind of anthropogenic influence primates are experiencing in an important factor. In disturbed sites, reduced food availability, increased population, and increased terrestriality all contributed to the risk of parasite infection. Where these indicators are present, there is also a high likelihood of observing chronically elevated levels of glucocorticoids. However, if resources are supplemented, either through human provisioning or crop raiding, elevated glucocorticoids is less likely. In these situations there may be more parasite diversity, but not necessarily a rise in density or degree of infection. These results indicate that parasite measures coupled with glucocorticoid analysis is an important and novel method for monitoring the health of primates and particularly their responses to environmental change. Such analyses may also facilitate conservation efforts.