Publication Date

Fall 12-16-2021


Infectious disease is a primary source of mortality for most mammal species, but scientists have little understanding of factors driving variation in infection and immunity between individuals, populations, and species in the wild. Life history theory provides an evolutionary framework for delineating distribution of available energy to competing physiological demands, including growth, reproduction, and maintenance. Early life reproduction should be favored over late life survival, but, in long-lived species, reproductive success is strongly tied to survival to old age. Slower pace of reproduction could allow investment in immunity, reducing risk of morbidity and mortality to infectious disease. Additionally, several host traits have potential to impact energy allocation and infection outcomes, including age, sex, genetics, stress, habitat quality, and pathogen and parasite coinfection. Here I investigate two topics related to variation in infection and immunity in wild chimpanzees: Chapter 1) does female chimpanzee reproduction result in short- and long-term impacts to immune function, as measured by gastrointestinal parasites, and, Chapter 2) is there a relationship between MHC-B genotypes and phenotypes and viral respiratory signs in wild chimpanzees. I identified host traits contributing to interindividual variation in respiratory signs, gastrointestinal parasites, and host immunity. I found no support for a tradeoff between reproduction and immunity or maternal depletion in female chimpanzees. Between populations of wild chimpanzees with high levels of recent historic gene flow, like those of Uganda and Tanzania, associations between respiratory signs and MHC-B genotypes and phenotypes were population specific, indicating a greater role for local adaptation than shared ancestry.


Chimpanzee, Reproduction, Infection, Immunogenetics, Life History, Aging

Document Type




Degree Name

Evolutionary Anthropology

Level of Degree


Department Name


First Committee Member (Chair)

Sherry Nelson

Second Committee Member

Martin N. Muller

Third Committee Member

Joe Alcock

Fourth Committee Member

Emily E. Wroblewski

Fifth Committee Member

Tony L. Goldberg

Available for download on Saturday, December 16, 2023