Impact of simian immunodeficiency virus infection on chimpanzee population dynamics.

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Rudicell, RS
Jones, JH
Wroblewski, EE
Learn, GH
Li, Y
Robertson, JD
Greengrass, E
Grossmann, F
Kamenya, S
Pintea, L

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Like human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), simian immunodeficiency virus of chimpanzees (SIVcpz) can cause CD4+ T cell loss and premature death. Here, we used molecular surveillance tools and mathematical modeling to estimate the impact of SIVcpz infection on chimpanzee population dynamics. Habituated (Mitumba and Kasekela) and non-habituated (Kalande) chimpanzees were studied in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Ape population sizes were determined from demographic records (Mitumba and Kasekela) or individual sightings and genotyping (Kalande), while SIVcpz prevalence rates were monitored using non-invasive methods. Between 2002-2009, the Mitumba and Kasekela communities experienced mean annual growth rates of 1.9% and 2.4%, respectively, while Kalande chimpanzees suffered a significant decline, with a mean growth rate of -6.5% to -7.4%, depending on population estimates. A rapid decline in Kalande was first noted in the 1990s and originally attributed to poaching and reduced food sources. However, between 2002-2009, we found a mean SIVcpz prevalence in Kalande of 46.1%, which was almost four times higher than the prevalence in Mitumba (12.7%) and Kasekela (12.1%). To explore whether SIVcpz contributed to the Kalande decline, we used empirically determined SIVcpz transmission probabilities as well as chimpanzee mortality, mating and migration data to model the effect of viral pathogenicity on chimpanzee population growth. Deterministic calculations indicated that a prevalence of greater than 3.4% would result in negative growth and eventual population extinction, even using conservative mortality estimates. However, stochastic models revealed that in representative populations, SIVcpz, and not its host species, frequently went extinct. High SIVcpz transmission probability and excess mortality reduced population persistence, while intercommunity migration often rescued infected communities, even when immigrating females had a chance of being SIVcpz infected. Together, these results suggest that the decline of the Kalande community was caused, at least in part, by high levels of SIVcpz infection. However, population extinction is not an inevitable consequence of SIVcpz infection, but depends on additional variables, such as migration, that promote survival. These findings are consistent with the uneven distribution of SIVcpz throughout central Africa and explain how chimpanzees in Gombe and elsewhere can be at equipoise with this pathogen.


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Animals, CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes, Computer Simulation, Feces, Female, Humans, Male, Models, Statistical, Pan troglodytes, Phylogeny, Population Dynamics, RNA, Messenger, RNA, Viral, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, Simian Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Simian Immunodeficiency Virus, Tanzania


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Rudicell, RS, JH Jones, EE Wroblewski, GH Learn, Y Li, JD Robertson, E Greengrass, F Grossmann, et al. (2010). Impact of simian immunodeficiency virus infection on chimpanzee population dynamics. PLoS Pathog, 6(9). p. e1001116. 10.1371/journal.ppat.1001116 Retrieved from

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Anne Pusey

James B. Duke Distinguished Professor Emerita of Evolutionary Anthropology

I have recently retired and am not taking on new students although I am continuing some research projects.  I am interested in understanding the evolution of sociality, social structure, and the patterns of competition, cooperation and social bonds in animal species, including humans. Most of my work has focused on social mammals: lions and chimpanzees. For the last twenty five years I have worked almost exclusively on the long term Gombe chimpanzee project. I have gathered the data from this study into an archive, currently housed at Duke, and I oversee the computerization of systematically collected daily data, incorporating this and related material into a relational database. I also advise on the ongoing field study at Gombe. Combined analysis of the long-term data and focused new data collection in the field enables study of a wide variety of questions. Current projects in my research group include studies of female social relationships and female settlement patterns. We also participate in collaborative work with colleagues at a number of other institutions on studies of life history, personality, and health, including studying the natural history of SIVcpz.

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