Shared community effects and the non-genetic maternal environment shape cortisol levels in wild chimpanzees

Patrick J. Tkaczynski*, Fabrizio Mafessoni*, Cédric Girard-Buttoz, Liran Samuni, Corinne Y. Ackermann, Pawel Fedurek, Cristina Gomes, Catherine Hobaiter, Therese Löhrich, Virgile Manin, Anna Preis, Prince D. Valé, Erin G. Wessling, Livia Wittiger, Zinta Zommers, Klaus Zuberbuehler, Linda Vigilant, Tobias Deschner, Roman M. Wittig, Catherine Crockford

*Corresponding author for this work

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Mechanisms of inheritance remain poorly defined for many fitness-mediating traits, especially in long-lived animals with protracted development. Using 6,123 urinary samples from 170 wild chimpanzees, we examined the contributions of genetics, non-genetic maternal effects, and shared community effects on variation in cortisol levels, an established predictor of survival in long-lived primates. Despite evidence for consistent individual variation in cortisol levels across years, between-group effects were more influential and made an overwhelming contribution to variation in this trait. Focusing on within-group variation, non-genetic maternal effects accounted for 8% of the individual differences in average cortisol levels, significantly more than that attributable to genetic factors, which was indistinguishable from zero. These maternal effects are consistent with a primary role of a shared environment in shaping physiology. For chimpanzees, and perhaps other species with long life histories, community and maternal effects appear more relevant than genetic inheritance in shaping key physiological traits.
Original languageEnglish
Article number565
Number of pages14
JournalCommunications Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2023


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