Dr Jo Setchell
(email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thanks for visiting my website. I received a PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge. Before joining Durham Anthropology in 2007 I did post-doctoral research at the Centre for Research in Evolutionary Anthropology at Roehampton University and in the Department of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.
I began my university teaching career with a temporary lectureship at UCL (Anthropology). At Durham I teach biological and evolutionary anthropology at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. I obtained my Post-Graduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in 2008.
I am currently Director of Research for the Anthropology Department.
Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Primatology
Vice-President (Research) of the International Primatological Society
Coedited with Debbie Curtis
I pursue two major areas of research.
The first integrates behaviour, morphology and demographic studies with genetics, endocrinology and semiochemistry to address questions relating to reproductive strategies, life history, sexual selection and signalling in primates. The majority of this work has focused on a semifree-ranging colony of mandrills at the Centre International de Recherches Médicales, Franceville (CIRMF), Gabon. I have also conducted primate fieldwork in Cameroon, Congo and Sabah, Malaysia.
I began my research career by investigating the dramatic red colouration of male mandrills, showing that this was related to testosterone, increased with male rank, and attracted females. High-ranking, highly coloured males sire the great majority of offspring in this species, explaining their extreme ornamentation. I subsequently studied female sexual signals in the same species, contributing to the hotly debated question of whether female signals reliably indicate ‘quality’. I continued this focus on sexual signals by conducting the first comprehensive test of the ‘immunocompetence hypothesis’ for the evolution of ornamentation in non-human primates.
Next, I explored the relationship between genes and mate choice. Mate choice for major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes is thought to give offspring a fitness advantage through disease resistance. I conducted one of the first studies of MHC-associated mate choice in a naturally reproducing mammal population, demonstrating a link between mating outcome and MHC dissimilarity in mandrills.
This led me to investigate how primates identify their ideal mate. Monkeys and apes have traditionally been considered as microsmatic, and the study of olfactory cues has thus been almost entirely neglected. However, my chemical investigations of odour signals in mandrills (the first such investigations in Old World primates) showed that odour encodes not only sex, age and dominance rank, but also MHC genotype and, crucially, MHC dissimilarity. Thus, odour provides a mechanism by which primates may detect their ‘optimal’ mate.
My current and planned future work in this area pursues the theme of signalling and mate choice, investigating potential post-copulatory selection based on genotype, whether and how primates respond to signals, and adds dental histology to my portfolio of methodological approaches with a Leverhulme-funded study of how primate teeth record life history events.
For more about my long-term studies of mandrills, please see /anthropology/mandrills/
The second area of my research involves collaboration with environmental anthropologists to address questions concerning human/wildlife interactions and biodiversity conservation. I am also very interested in the practice and ethics of primate research, and helped to develop the International Primatological Society's Code of Best Practices in Field Primatology.
- Dr Esther Clarke: COFUND Junior Research Fellowship "Primate vocalisations as sexual signals"
- Dr Stefano Vaglio: Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowships for Career Development "Primate Olfaction"
Current Research Students
- Pete Tomlin: "Ontogeny of social behaviour in chacma baboons". PhD candidate
- Miles Woodruff: "Reintroduction of Mandrillus sphinx in the Republic of Congo". PhD candidate
- Ingrid Grueso-Dominguez: "Applying geometric morphometrics to the study of discrete dental traits" PhD candidate
- Simone Lemmers: "Stress, life history, and dental development in primates". PhD candidate
- Pedro Mendez-Carvajal: "Conserving primates in
highly deforested habitats: a case study in Panama". PhD candidate
Past Research Students
- Emilie Fairet: "Human-wildlife conflict and its implications for the management of protected areas: A case study in Loango National Park, Gabon". PhD passed December 2012. Emilie is now working for SFM Safari Gabon, developing eco-tourism projects. She is also part of the working group on human-wildlife conflict managment and tool kit development with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the Ministry of Water and Forests in Gabon.
- Ben Coleman: "Predator-prey interactions and vigilance landscapes in samango monkeys in South Africa". PhD passed April 2013.
- Caroline Howlett: "The 2D:4D ratio & social behaviour in female chacma baboons". MSc by Research passed May 2013.
- Kat Shutt: "An interdisciplinary risk assessment of gorilla ecotourism". PhD passed January 2014. Kat is now working for Flora & Flauna International.
- Sian Waters: "Population Status, Ecology and Conservation of Barbary macaques in the Rif Mountains, Morocco". PhD passed December 2014. Sian runs Barbary Macaque Awareness and Conservation
Information for Prospective Students
I'm happy to supervise MSc, Masters by Research and PhD students in primatology. I do not usually offer 'off-the-shelf' projects to students, but prefer to work with applicants who share my research interests to develop a proposal.
- Centre Internationale de Recherches Médicales, Franceville, Gabon (long-term, interdisciplinary studies of semi-free-ranging mandrills)
- Dr Leslie A Knapp, Department of Anthropology, University of Utah (MHC genetics of semi-free-ranging mandrills)
- Dr Robin Bernstein, Department of Anthropology, University of Colorado Boulder, USA (the endocrinology of primate growth and development)
- Dr Elena Cunningham, NYU College of Dentistry (darting primates)
- Dr Wendy Dirks, Newcastle Dental School (stress, life history and primate teeth)
- Growth and ontogeny
- Human-wildlife interactions
- Interactions between hormones, immunity and reproduction
- Primate Conservation
- Primate socioecology
- Reproductive strategies
- Secondary sexual traits and signalling in males and females
- Primate behavioural ecology
- Sexual selection
- Life history strategies and phenotypic plasticity
Journal papers: academic
- Fairet, E, Bell, S, Remanda, K & Setchell, JM (2015). Rural emptiness and its influence on subsistence farming in contemporary Gabon: A case study in Loango National Park. Society, Biology and Human Affairs 78: 39-59.
- Shutt, K., Heistermann, M., Kasim, A., Todd, A., Kalousova, B., Profosouva, I., Petrzelkova, K., Fuh, T., Dicky, J.-F., Bopalanzognako, J.-B. & Setchell, J.M. (2014). Effects of habituation, research and ecotourism on faecal glucocorticoid metabolites in wild western lowland gorillas: Implications for conservation management. Biological Conservation 172: 72-79.
- Setchell, J.M., Abbott, K.M., Gonzalez, J.-P. & Knapp, L.A. (2013). Testing for post-copulatory selection for major histocompatability complex genotype in a semi-free-ranging primate population. American Journal of Primatology 75(10): 1021–1031.
- Bernstein, R.M., Setchell, J.M., Verrier, D. & Knapp, L.A. (2012). Maternal effects and the endocrine regulation of mandrill growth. American Journal of Primatology 74(10): 890.
- Shutt, K., Setchell, J.M. & Heistermann, M. (2012). Non-invasive monitoring of physiological stress in the Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla): validation of a fecal glucocorticoid assay and methods for practical application in the field. General and Comparative Endocrinology 179(2): 167-177.
- Setchell, J.M., Kendal, J.R. & Tyniec, P. (2011). Do non-human primates synchronise their menstrual cycles? A test in mandrills. Psychoneuroendocrinology 36(1): 51-59.
- Setchell, J.M., Vaglio, S., Abbott, K.M., Moggi-Cecchi, J., Boscaro, F., Pieraccini, G. & Knapp, L.A. (2011). Odour signals major histocompatibility complex genotype in an Old World monkey. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 278(1703): 274-280.
- Setchell, J.M., Vaglio, S., Moggi-Cecchi, J., Boscaro, F., Calamai, L. & Knapp, L.A. (2010). Chemical composition of scent-gland secretions in an Old World monkey (Mandrillus sphinx): influence of sex, male status, and individual identity. Chemical Senses 35(3): 205-220.
- Setchell, J.M., Charpentier, M.J.E., Abbott, K.M., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2010). Opposites attract: MHC-associated mate choice in a polygynous primate. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23(1): 136-148.
- Setchell, J.M., Smith, T.E., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2010). Stress, social behaviour, and secondary sexual traits in a male primate. Hormones and Behavior 58(5): 720-728.
- Setchell, J.M. & Huchard, E. (2010). The hidden benefits of sex: Evidence for MHC-associated mate choice in primate societies. BioEssays 32(11): 940-948.
- Setchell, J.M., Charpentier, M., Abbott, K.A., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2009). Is brightest best? Testing the Hamilton-Zuk hypothesis in mandrills. International Journal of Primatology 30(6): 825-844.
- Leigh, S.R., Setchell, J.M., Charpentier, M., Knapp, L.A. & Wickings, E.J. (2008). Canine tooth size and fitness in male mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Journal of Human Evolution 55(1): 75-85.
- Setchell, J.M., Smith, T.E., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2008). Social correlates of testosterone and ornamentation in male mandrills. Hormones and Behavior 54(3): 365-372.
- Setchell, J.M., Charpentier, M., Bedjabaga, I-B., Reed, P., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2006). Secondary sexual characters and female quality in primates. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61(2): 305-315.
- Setchell, J.M., Wickings, E.J. & Knapp, L.A. (2006). Signal content of red facial coloration in female mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273(1599): 2395 - 2400.
Available for media contact about:
- Evolution: primate behaviour
- People: Evolution and Biology: animal behaviour
- Evolution: sexual selection