Within-individual changes reveal increasing social selectivity with age in rhesus macaques

Erin R. Siracusa, Josué E. Negron-Del Valle, Daniel Phillips, Michael L. Platt, James P. Higham, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Lauren J.N. Brent

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Accumulating evidence in humans and other mammals suggests older individuals tend to have smaller social networks. Uncovering the cause of these declines can inform how changes in social relationships with age affect health and fitness in later life. While age-based declines in social networks have been thought to be detrimental, physical and physiological limitations associated with age may lead older individuals to adjust their social behavior and be more selective in partner choice. Greater selectivity with age has been shown in humans, but the extent to which this phenomenon occurs across the animal kingdom remains an open question. Using longitudinal data from a population of rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago, we provide compelling evidence in a nonhuman animal for within-individual increases in social selectivity with age. Our analyses revealed that adult female macaques actively reduced the size of their networks as they aged and focused on partners previously linked to fitness benefits, including kin and partners to whom they were strongly and consistently connected earlier in life. Females spent similar amounts of time socializing as they aged, suggesting that network shrinkage does not result from lack of motivation or ability to engage, nor was this narrowing driven by the deaths of social partners. Furthermore, females remained attractive companions and were not isolated by withdrawal of social partners. Taken together, our results provide rare empirical evidence for social selectivity in nonhumans, suggesting that patterns of increasing selectivity with age may be deeply rooted in primate evolution.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere2209180119
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number49
    StatePublished - Dec 6 2022


    • aging
    • mammals
    • selectivity
    • senescence
    • social behavior

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


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