Animal Ecology

Liesbeth Sterck

Full professor



Gesellschaft für Primatologie
12th Conference
March 30 to April 1, 2011



Kruijt Gebouw Room O 203
Padualaan 8
3584 CH Utrecht
The Netherlands
telephone: +31-30-2535405
fax: +31-30-2521105

Brief biography

2013 - now  Full professor, Animal Ecology, Utrecht University   Video van oratie 22 januari 2014  PDF van oratie
2002 - 2013 Associate professor, Behavioural Biology, Utrecht University
1993 - 2002 Assistant professor, Behavioural Biology, Utrecht University
Thesis defence in 1995, Utrecht University
1988 - 1992 PhD research NWO-WOTRO, research in Indonesia at the Ketambe Research Station, Gunung Leuser National Park, Aceh.
1980 - 1988 Biology, Master Degree, Utrecht University
1978 - 1982 Pharmacy, Bachelor Degree, Utrecht University

Main research interest

My research concerned testing and developing of socioecological theories of primate social behaviour. These theories identify evolutionary forces that explain extant social behaviour. These forces are predation risk, food competition and social and sexual strategies of conspecifics.

My current interest concerns primate social cognition. Primates are an excellent group of animals to study the effect of social cognitive capacities on social behaviour. They exhibit a highly interesting gradient in social cognitive capacities: humans certainly possess the most advanced type, namely Theory of Mind. Our nearest relatives, the apes (e.g. chimpanzees), may possess some elementary form of this capacity, while this is probably lacking in our more distant relatives, the monkeys (e.g. macaques). This gradient allows for a comparative approach.

Key publications

  • Sterck, E.H.M., Watts, D.P. & van Schaik, C.P. (1997) The evolution of female social relationships in nonhuman primates. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 41: 291-309.
  • Sterck, E.H.M. (1997) Determinants of female transfer in Thomas langurs (Presbytis thomasi). American Journal of Primatology 42: 179-198.
  • Wich, S. A., Assink and Sterck, E. H. M. (2004) Thomas langurs (Presbytis thomasi) discriminate between calls of young solitary versus older group-living males: a factor in avoiding infanticide? Behaviour141(1): 41-51.
  • Koski, SE & Sterck, EHM (2007) Triadic post-conflict affiliation in captive chimpanzees; does consolation console? Animal Behaviour 73: 133-142.
  • Dufour V. & Sterck E.H.M. (2008) Chimpanzees fail to plan in an exchange task but succeed in a tool-using procedure. Behavioural Processes 79: 19-27.
  • Kempes, M.M., den Heijer, E., Korteweg, L., Louwerse, A.L., Sterck, E.H.M (2009) Socially deprived rhesus monkeys fail to reconcile: do they not attempt or not accept reconciliation? Animal Behaviour 78: 271-277.
  • Sterck, E. H. M. & Begeer, S. (2010) Theory of Mind: Specialized capacity or emergent property? European Journal of Developmental Psychology 7(1): 1-16.
  • Massen, J.J.M., van den Berg, L.M., Spruijt, B.M. & Sterck, E.H.M. (2010) Generous leaders and selfish underdogs: Pro-sociality in despotic macaques. PLoS ONE 5(3): e9734. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0009734
  • Dekleva, M., Dufour, V., de Vries , H., Spruijt, B.M. & Sterck, E.H.M. (2011) Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) fail a What-Where-When task but find rewards by means of a location-based association strategy. PlosOne 6(2): e16593. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0016593
  • Evers, E., de Vries, H., Spruijt, B.M. & Sterck. E.H.M. (2011) Better safe than sorry - Avoidance and social attention regulate group structure in an agent-based model. PlosOne 6(11): e26189. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0026189

 List of publications (April 2014)

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