Sociality predicts individual variation in the immunity of free-ranging rhesus macaques

Melissa A. Pavez-Fox*, Josue E. Negron-Del Valle, Indya J. Thompson, Chistopher S. Walker, Samuel E. Bauman, Olga Gonzalez, Nicole Compo, Angelina Ruiz-Lambides, Melween I. Martinez, Michael L. Platt, Michael J. Montague, James P. Higham, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Lauren J.N. Brent

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Social integration and social status can substantially affect an individual's health and survival. One route through which this occurs is by altering immune function, which can be highly sensitive to changes in the social environment. However, we currently have limited understanding of how sociality influences markers of immunity in naturalistic populations where social dynamics can be fully realized. To address this gap, we asked if social integration and social status in free-ranging rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) predict anatomical and physiological markers of immunity. We used data on agonistic interactions to determine social status, and social network analysis of grooming interactions to generate measures of individual variation in social integration. As measures of immunity, we included the size of two of the major organs involved in the immune response, the spleen and liver, and counts of three types of blood cells (red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells). Controlling for body mass and age, we found that neither social status nor social integration predicted the size of anatomical markers of immunity. However, individuals that were more socially connected, i.e., with more grooming partners, had lower numbers of white blood cells than their socially isolated counterparts, indicating lower levels of inflammation with increasing levels of integration. These results build upon and extend our knowledge of the relationship between sociality and the immune system in humans and captive animals to free-ranging primates, demonstrating generalizability of the beneficial role of social integration on health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number113560
Number of pages8
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Early online date25 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Sociality
  • Health
  • Immunity
  • Social networks
  • Rhesus macaques


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