Document Type


Date of Degree Completion

Spring 2023

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Primate Behavior

Committee Chair

Lixing Sun

Second Committee Member

Lori K. Sheeran

Third Committee Member

Gabrielle Stryker


Grooming is one of the crucial social behaviors of primate species that functions to remove parasites and maintain social bonds. Although, much data exists to support the idea that grooming is essential in forming and sustaining social bonds among individuals, there is a lack of information about the extent to which it removes ectoparasites or contributes to the spread of internal parasites. To fill this gap in the literature, we investigated the relationship between social contact behavior including grooming and intestinal parasite infection in Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana). This species lives at Mt. Huangshan in China. We used a combination of behavioral and parasitological data collected including the focal sampling method and from fecal samples in August and December 2022 from 22 adults in the YA1 group. We identified and quantified the presence of protozoans in fecal samples (Coccidia sp. and Balantidium coli), trematodes (Clonorchis sp.), and nematodes (Trichuris trichura, Ascaris spp., Strongyloides spp., Capillaria spp., hookworm (Necator sp. or Ancylostoma sp.), and Trichostrongylus sp.). Capillaria spp. infected all individuals. Our analysis revealed that social contact behavior was correlated with intestinal parasite burden in Tibetan macaques. The analysis of variance demonstrated significant differences in parasite egg numbers between males and females and among different social ranks (low-, middle- and high-rankings) in adults. Spearman correlation analysis revealed that B. coli egg counts were most positively associated with, whereas Capillaria spp. egg numbers were negatively correlated with the mean duration of all individuals' social contact behavior.