E-mail: anthony.difiore@austin.utexas.edu

Phone: (512) 232-2183 (Chair’s Office); (512) 471-2318

Office: SAC 4.102H (Chair’s Office); SAC 5.150

Twitter: @ecuamonkey

 

 

I am, first and foremost, a field primatologist, and I either am directly involved in or supervise a very diverse array of field studies on New World primates. The major portion of my field research takes place at two different sites in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve in Amazonian Ecuador – at the Proyecto Primates Research Area, which I established in 1994 as a Ph.D. student with Dr. Peter Rodman (UC Davis), and at the Tiputini Biodiversity Station, located approximately 40 km away. Both of these sites are home to a diverse primate community consisting of 10 to 12 different species. Additionally, I collaborate on a number of projects involving fieldwork in other New World sites outside of Ecuador. For my doctoral research at the University of California, Davis and in follow-up work as a postdoctoral fellow, I focused on documenting the natural history, time allocation patterns, ranging behavior, diet, and foraging strategies of lowland woolly monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii), particularly as they relate to conditions of changing resource abundance. The results of some of this work – including the unexpected significance of animal prey foraging for this otherwise largely frugivorous primate – are outlined in my publications on the ecological strategies and ranging behavior of woolly monkeys.

In my doctoral research at the University of California, Davis and in follow-up work as a postdoctoral fellow, I focused on documenting the natural history, time allocation patterns, ranging behavior, diet, and foraging strategies of lowland woolly monkeys (Lagothrix poeppigii), particularly as they relate to conditions of changing resource abundance. The results of some of this work – including the unexpected significance of animal prey foraging for this otherwise largely frugivorous primate – are outlined in my publications on the ecological strategies and ranging behavior of woolly monkeys. Since my postdoctoral training in the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at the National Zoological Park, Smithsonian Institution, I have been using molecular genetic techniques to complement my field studies as well as the field studies of other scientists. Much of the early work in this area benefitted from the Molecular Anthropology Laboratory at New York University.

  1. Investigations of New World Monkey Social Systems: In the lab, we use molecular techniques to study the dispersal patterns, mating systems, and population structure of various New World primates. Although many of the taxa we work with have subjects of long-term observational studies in the wild, it is difficult to get a complete picture of mating systems and dispersal patterns using observational data only.
  2. New World Monkey Phylogenetics and Phylogeography: Through collaborations with various colleagues (Dr. Todd Disotell, Dr. Jessica Lynch Alfaro, Dr. Liliana Cortes-Ortiz) and former students (Dr. Alba Morales, Dr. Andres Link), I am also beginning to address questions concerning the phylogeny, evolutionary history, and biogeography of several New World primates.
  3. Methodological Contributions: In the course of my genetic work, I have been involved in the development and application of several methodological innovations with broader impact for molecular ecological studies of primates, including a “subtractive hybridization enrichment” protocol that facilitates the isolation of new microsatellite loci from a taxon. More recently, I developed a rapid and simple PCR-based test for determining the sex of a primate DNA sample that should be of use to many primatologists. While several molecular methods had already been developed for sex assignment in humans, very few had proven useful in other primates. By contrast, my sex-typing assay is applicable to taxa from across the primate order and can be effectively used on even the small amounts of DNA recovered from noninvasively collected samples such as hair or feces.

Some of my ongoing field projects are described further on the Research pages of this website.

Thank you to The Leakey FoundationNational GeographicThe Wenner-Gren Foundation, and National Science Foundation for funding numerous projects. Thank you also to the staff of both research stations and especially to the government of Ecuador. I am grateful to the many project alumni (colleagues, students, and assistants) that have been part of Proyecto Primates over the last few decades.