Primate Immunogenetics and Molecular Ecology Research Group (PrIME)

Dr. Jacob C Dunn

Lecturer in Human Biology

Tel: +44 (0) 1223 335459
Mobile: +44(0) 7411 356115
Fax: +44 (0) 1223 335460



Current positions

Lecturer in Human Biology
Associate Member of Emmanuel College


Previous positions

Senior Postdoctoral Research Associate, PrIME Research Group, Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico


Thanks for visiting!

My research interests are in the general area of evolutionary biology, encompassing and integrating the fields of morphology, behavioural ecology, molecular ecology and eco-physiology.

I originally trained in Zoology at the University of Edinburgh. Then I went on to study for an MSc and PhD in Anthropology and Primatology at the University of Barcelona. During this time I developed a behavioural model to explain the proximate causes of increased levels of stress among primate populations living in fragmented habitats in Mexico. From 2010 - 2012, I carried out postdoctoral research in PrIME and at the University of Veracruz, where I carried out research into the immunogenetics and population genetics of New World primates.


Over the last couple of years, I have developed two main projects: the first investigates the evolution of communication systems using comparative data from living primates. The second examines the evolution of coat colour in primates. Both projects use an interdisciplinary approach to understand how habitat, socio-ecology, health, physiology, genetics and life history traits relate to variation in phenotypic traits important for communication and reproduction.

Current Projects

  • The evolution of speech: insights from non-human primate vocal anatomy (PI)
  • Sexual selection and the evolution of coat colour in primates (PI)
  • Migrations and relatedness: behavioural strategies of howler monkeys in fragmented forests (PI Joaquim Vea, University of Barcelona).
  • Molecular phylogenetics of Mesoamerican howler monkeys: resolving taxonomic uncertainties and redefining conservation priorities (PI: Leslie Knapp; Collaboration with Ernesto Rodríguez-Luna, University of Veracruz, Mexico).
  • Evaluation of the distribution, population size and vulnerability of threatened species (jaguar, tapir, primates, bats and birds) to determine areas and strategies for conservation (PI: Dr Cristina MacSwiney; Collaboration with the University of Veracruz, Mexico).

  • Vocal plasticity and fragmentation in A. palliata: Instrument for the evaluation of the status of populations (PI: Joaquim Veà, University of Barcelona).

  • Testing molecular markers for phylogeography in new World primates (PI: Leslie Knapp).

Selected News! (click on story for link)


New paper out in Current Biology this week - 

The Verge (06.02.15) - Chimpanzee grunts mean more than you think

The Scientist (11.12.14) - Antibiotic resistance among wildlife

The British Library (08.09.13) - Tracing the origins of speech

The Telegraph (22.01.13) – Howler monkey at risk of extinction because of stress

Science Daily (22.01.13) – Monkeys stressedfrom longer foraging times

Cambridge University (22.01.13) – High stress levels found in monkeysforced to spend more time foraging
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (30.10.12) – Is too much exercise bad for monkeys?

Prospective Students

We are always interested to hear from talented and motivated students who are interested in our areas of research. Please contact me by email with a copy of your CV and a short statement of your interests. We also frequently have exciting opportunities available for field assistants to gain experience with howler monkeys and spider monkeys in Mexico.


2015    Dunn JC, Halenar L, Davies T, Cristobal-Azkarate J, Sykes D, Dengg S, Reby D, Fitch T, Knapp L. Evolutionary tradeoff between vocal tract and testes dimensions in howler monkeys. Current Biology (in press).Click for PDF of Curriculum VitaeClick for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2015    Ordóñez-Gómez JD, Dunn JC, Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Santillán Doherty AM, Méndez-Cárdenas MG, Márquez-Arias A. Aggression severity influences the acoustic parameters of the agonistic vocalizations of spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). American Journal of Primatology. (doi: 10.1007/s1074-015-9833-5).Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2015    Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Dunn JC, Domingo-Balcells C, Vea JJ. A ten-year history of demographic change in a population of free-ranging howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) living in a fragmented landscape in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. PeerJ. (in press).Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2014    Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Dunn JC, Day J, Amábile-Cuevas C. Resistance to antibiotics of clinical relevance in the fecal microbiota of Mexican wildlife. PLoS One e107719. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0107719.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2014    Dunn JC, Shedden-González A, Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Cortés-Ortiz L, Rodríguez-Luna E & Knapp L. Limited genetic diversity in the critically endangered Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) in the Selva Zoque, Mexico. Primates DOI: 10.1007/s10329-013-0399-6.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2014    Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Asensio N, Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J & Gonzalez-Zamora A. The importance of lianas for primates: more than just a food sourceIn: Ecology of lianas. Schnitzer S, Bongers F, Burnham R & Putz F (eds.). Springer Press.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2014    Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Dias PA, Dunn JC, Asensio N, Hervier B, Vegas-Carillo S, Rodríguez-Luna E & Vea-Baro JJ. The effects of forest fragmentation on howler monkey populations in Los Tuxtlas: an integrated perspective. In: Advances and perspectives in tropical biology. Reynoso-Rosales VH & Coates R (eds.). UNAM Press. Mexico City.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2013    Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Chavira R & Veà J. Travel time predicts fecal glucocorticoid levels in free-ranging howler monkeys. International Journal of Primatology34: 246-259.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2013    Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Dunn JC. Lessons from Los Tuxtlas: 30 years of research into primates in fragments. In: Primates in fragments: complexity and resilience. Marsh L, Chapman C (eds.). Springer. New York. pp 75-88.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2013    Marsh LK, Chapman CA, Arroyo-Rodriguez V, Cobden AK, Dunn J, Gabriel D, Ghai RR, Nijman V, Reyna-Hurtado R, Serio-Silva JC & Wasserman MD. Primates in fragments ten years later: once and future goals. In: Marsh LK & Chapman CA. Primates in fragments: complexity and resilience. Springer Press, New York. pp 503- 523. Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2012    Dunn JC, Asensio N, Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Schnitzer S & Cristóbal-Azkarate J. The ranging costs of a fallback food: liana consumption supplements diet but increases foraging effort in howler monkeys. Biotropica 44: 705-714.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2012    Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Veà J & Chavira R. Effects of fruit consumption and foraging effort on stress levels in two groups of Alouatta palliata mexicana in forest fragments. In: Perspectives in primatology. Gama L, Arriaga-Weiss S & Contreras-Sanchez W (eds.). Villahermosa: UJAT Press.

2011    Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Domingo Balcells C, Dunn JC & Vea-Baro J. Demography, life history and migrations in howler monkeys in Los Tuxtlas. In: The conservation of Mexican primates. Dias PAD, Rangel-Negrin A, Canales D (eds.). Universidad Veracruzana Press.

2010    Rodríguez-Luna E, Solórzano-García B, Shedden A, Rangel-Negrín A, Dias PAD, Cristóbal-Azkárate J, Cortés-Ortiz L, Dunn JC, Domingo-Balcells C, Sánchez S, Carrillo L & Cornejo J. Conservation and management plan for Mexican primates. IUCN/CBSG.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2010    Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J & Veà J. Seasonal variations in the diet and feeding effort of two groups of howler monkeys in different sized forest fragments. International Journal of Primatology31: 887-903.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2009    Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J & Veà J. Differences in diet and activity pattern between two groups of Alouatta palliata associated with the availability of big trees and fruit of top food species. American Journal of Primatology 71: 654-662.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2009    Asensio N, Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Dunn JC & Cristóbal-Azkarate J. Conservation value of landscape supplementation for howler monkeys living in forest patches. Biotropica41: 768-773.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2009    Arroyo-Rodríguez V, Dunn JC, Benítez-Malvido J & Mandujano S. Angiosperms, Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Veracruz, Mexico. Check List5: 787-799.Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae

2008    Dunn JC, Cristóbal-Azkarate J & Veà J. The feeding ecology of the mantled howler monkey (Alouatta palliata): coping strategies in altered landscapes. Folia Primatologica79: 299-301.

In Review

Dunn JC & Smaers JB. Neural correlates of vocal complexity in primates. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B (in review)

Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Booth RN, Dunn JC, Ernesto Rodríguez-Luna E, Canales-Espinosa D, Wasser SK. Fecal thyroid and glucocorticoids as biomarkers of thermal load and energetic stress in a tropical primate. Hormones and Behavior (in review).

Shedden A, Dunn JC, Martinez-Mota R, Gillingham P, Cristóbal-Azkarate J, McSwiney C, Newton A, Rodríguez-Luna E, Korstjens A. The effect of vegetation type on howler monkey distribution. American Journal of Primatology (in review)

Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Booth RN, Dunn JC, Ernesto Rodríguez-Luna E, Canales-Espinosa D, Wasser SK. Validation of glucocorticoid and thyroid hormone assays in mantled howler feces. International Journal of Primatology (in review.)

Dunn JC, Cristobal-Azkarate J, Rodriguez-Luna E & Knapp L. Predicting the effects of climate change and habitat destruction on the conservation of Mexican primates: current perspectives and future prospects. In: In the name of climate change. Bodenhorn B, Irvine R (eds.). Berghahn Press (in review).

Cristóbal-Azkarate J, Dunn JC, Hervier B, García-Hernández J, Osorio D & Veà J. Interactive effects of rainfall and habitat characteristics on howler monkey parasite infections in forest fragments. Parasitology (in review).

Dunn JC, Rodriguez-Luna E & Knapp L. Phylogeography and population structure of the Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) inferred from full-length mitochondrial control region sequences. Conservation Genetics (in prep.).


Curriculum vitae: Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae (updated 9.9.15)

En Espanol Click for PDF of Curriculum Vitae (updated 9.9.15)


This research has been funded by generous contributions from:


School of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Cambridge
Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales (CITRO):
Universidad Veracruzana:
Universidad de Barcelona:
Isaac Newton Trust:
Alison Hillman Charitable Trust

Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation



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