Rhesus macaques build new social connections after a natural disaster

Camille Testard, Sam M. Larson, Marina M. Watowich, Cassandre H. Kaplinsky, Antonia Bernau, Matthew Faulder, Harry H. Marshall, Julia Lehmann, Angelina Ruiz-Lambides, James P. Higham, Michael J. Montague, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Michael L. Platt, Lauren J.N. Brent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, floods, and droughts. Understanding resilience and vulnerability to these intense stressors and their aftermath could reveal adaptations to extreme environmental change. In 2017, Puerto Rico suffered its worst natural disaster, Hurricane Maria, which left 3,000 dead and provoked a mental health crisis. Cayo Santiago island, home to a population of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), was devastated by the same storm. We compared social networks of two groups of macaques before and after the hurricane and found an increase in affiliative social connections, driven largely by monkeys most socially isolated before Hurricane Maria. Further analysis revealed monkeys invested in building new relationships rather than strengthening existing ones. Social adaptations to environmental instability might predispose rhesus macaques to success in rapidly changing anthropogenic environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2299-2309.e7
JournalCurrent Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 7 2021


  • Cayo Santiago
  • Hurricane Maria
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhesus macaques
  • natural disaster
  • social network
  • social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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