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Leslie J. Digby, Associate Professor of the Practice

Leslie J. Digby

My research focuses on the  behavior and ecology of non-human primates, including how primates balance cooperation and competition in their breeding strategies. In addition, I examine how animals mitigate the costs of temperature extremes through behavior and the use of microhabitats. Our results help us better understand the vulnerabilities of species facing more extreme weather fluctuations.

General Research Interests include:

Evolution of Primate & Human Social Behavior
Primate Behavioral Ecology
Mammalian Reproductive Strategies, Mating Systems, and Infanticide
Primate Microhabitat Use
Primate Behavioral Thermoregulation
Marmosets and Tamarins

Contact Info:
Office Location:  08A Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Spring 2023):  (typical courses)

    Lemur CTR, TuTh 08:30 AM-09:45 AM
Office Hours:

Tuesdays 1:30-2:30 and Wednesdays 1-2:30 and by appointment

Ph.D.University of California - Davis1994
M.A.University of California, Davis1988
BAUniversity of California, San Diego1986

Primate Ecology
Behavioral Ecology and Physiology
Research Interests: Evolution of Primate and Human Social Behavior; Primate Behavioral Ecology; Mating Systems and Infanticide; Behavioral Thermoregulation; Three-dimensional home-range use; Lemurs, Marmosets

Current projects: Methods for Mapping Primate Home Ranges, Behavioral thermoregulation in primates, Comparative Cognition in Lemurs

My research has centered on the evolution primate social and reproductive behavior (including female-female competition) for many years. Working with marmosets and lemurs, I've investigated the evolution of infanticide, mating systems and cooperative breeding. In the last few years I've also begun to study more ecological aspects of behavior, in particular the methods and impact of habitat use by lemurs. One of the themes of this research is the three-dimensional use of space by arboreal primates. Using the natural habitat enclosures of the Duke Lemur Center, we've been able to track (using GPS) the animals and determine a home-range 'volume' that provides a much richer look at habitat use than the traditional two-dimensional home-range areas. We are also working on determining the factors that contribute to the use of different locations and heights within the forest. Using thermography, IR thermometers, and ibuttons that track temperature and humidity, we're investigating how surface and ambient temperatures impact the lemurs' use of their forest habitats. Understanding this type of behavioral thermoregulation and use of microhabitats could have far reaching implications for why animals are restricted to certain types of forest, geographic locations and even how species respond to long-term climate variation.

Areas of Interest:

Primate Behavioral Ecology
behavioral thermoregulation
Mammalian Mating Systems
Methods in Behavioral Ecology
Marmosets and Tamarins


Aggression • Animals • Animals, Wild • Animals, Zoo • behavioral thermoregulation • Callithrix • callitrichines • Copulation • Dominance-Subordination • Female • Hierarchy, Social • home range • infanticide • Lemur • Lemuridae • lemurs • Male • marmosets • methods • primate behavior • Sex Characteristics • Sex Factors • Sexual Behavior, Animal • Social Dominance • Time Factors


Director of Undergraduate Studies for Evolutionary Anthropology
Curriculum Vitae
Representative Publications   (More Publications)   (search)

  1. Saltzman, W; Digby, LJ; Abbott, DH, Reproductive skew in female common marmosets: what can proximate mechanisms tell us about ultimate causes?, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 276 no. 1656 (February, 2009), pp. 389-399, ISSN 0962-8452 (Published on-line Oct 2008.) [doi]  [abs]
  2. L.J. Digby, S.F. Ferrari, W. Saltzman, Callitrichines: the role of competition in cooperatively breeding species., in Primates in Perspective, edited by K.C. MacKinnon, M. Panger, S. Bearder, C. Campbell, and A. Fuentes (2007), Oxford University Press
  3. L. Digby and W. Saltzman, Balancing cooperation and competition in callitrichid primates: examining the relative risk of infanticide across species, in The Smallest Anthropoids: The Marmoset/Callimico Radiation, edited by SM Ford, LM Porter and LC Davis (November, 2009), Springer Verlag, ISBN 978-1-4419-0292-4  [abs]
  4. Abbott, D.H., Digby, L.J. and Saltzman, W., Reproductive skew in female common marmosets: contributions of infanticide and subordinate self restraint., in Reproductive Skew in Vertebrates: Proximate and Ultimate Causes, edited by Hagar, R. and Jones, C. (September, 2009), Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-86409-1
  5. Digby, L; McLean Stevens, A, Maintenance of female dominance in blue-eyed black lemurs (Eulemur macaco flavifrons) and gray bamboo lemurs (Hapalemur griseus griseus) under semi-free-ranging and captive conditions., Zoo Biology, vol. 26 no. 5 (September, 2007), pp. 345-361, ISSN 0733-3188 [doi]  [abs]
  6. Digby, LJ, Infanticide by female mammals: implications for the evolution of social systems, in Infanticide by Males and Its Implications, edited by C. van Schaik and C. Janson (November, 2000), pp. 423-446, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0521774985  [abs]
  7. Digby, LJ; Kahlenberg, SM, Female dominance in blue-eyed black lemurs(Eulemur macaco flavifrons)., Primates; Journal of Primatology, vol. 43 no. 3 (July, 2002), pp. 191-199, ISSN 0032-8332 [12145400], [doi]  [abs]
  8. Digby, L, Infant care, infanticide, and female reproductive strategies in polygynous groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol. 37 no. 1 (January, 1995), pp. 51-61, Springer Nature [doi]  [abs]
  9. Digby, LJ; Ferrari, SF, Multiple breeding females in free-ranging groups of Callithrix jacchus, International Journal of Primatology, vol. 15 no. 3 (June, 1994), pp. 389-397, Springer Nature, ISSN 0164-0291 [doi]  [abs]
  10. Nievergelt, CM; Digby, LJ; Ramakrishnan, U; Woodruff, DS, Genetic analysis of group composition and breeding system in a wild common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) population, International Journal of Primatology, vol. 21 no. 1 (January, 2000), pp. 1-20 [doi]  [abs]
  11. Digby, LJ, Sexual behavior and extragroup copulations in a wild population of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)., Folia Primatologica, vol. 70 no. 3 (January, 1999), pp. 136-145, ISSN 0015-5713 [10394062], [doi]  [abs]

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