School of Anthropology & Conservation

Excellence in diversity Global in reach

Dr Brandon Wheeler

Lecturer in Biological Anthropology

Primates; behavioural ecology; socioecology; communication; predation; feeding competition; cognition


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School Roles and Responsibilities

Deputy Director of Recruitment & Admissions for Biological Anthropology; Programme Convenor for BSc in Biological Anthropology and BSc in Anthropology

Academic Background

I am a behavioural ecologist broadly interested in the costs and benefits associated with group-living among primates, especially in terms of predation risk, feeding competition and infanticide by males. More specifically, I am interested in the role of communication in moderating these costs and facilitating the benefits. I conduct fieldwork on wild tufted capuchin monkeys in Iguazú National Park, Argentina. My work uses a largely experimental approach, combined with acoustic and hormonal analyses, to understand social behaviour from both ultimate (i.e. adaptive) and proximate (e.g. cognitive, emotional and physiological) levels.

Before arriving at Kent, I received my BA from the University of Arkansas and Ph.D. from Stony Brook University. Following that, I was a postdoc in the Cognitive Ethology Lab at the German Primate Center. In addition to my work in Argentina, I have conducted fieldwork with primates in Thailand, Costa Rica, and Madagascar.

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Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

B. Tiddi, Heistermann, M., Fahy, M., and Wheeler, B., "Male resource defense mating system in primates? An experimental test in wild capuchin monkeys", PLOS ONE, vol. 13. Public Library of Science, p. e0197020, 2018 [Online]. Available:
D. Kean, Tiddi, B., Fahy, M., Heistermann, M., Schino, G., and Wheeler, B., "Feeling anxious? The mechanisms of vocal deception in tufted capuchin monkeys", Animal Behaviour, vol. 130. Elsevier, pp. 37-46, 2017 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Functions and mechanisms of communicative behaviors in humans and nonhuman primates", Current Anthropology, vol. 56. University of Chicago Press, pp. 73-74, 2015.
B. Tiddi, Wheeler, B., and Heistermann, M., "Female behavioral proceptivity functions as a probabilistic signal of fertility, not female quality, in a New World primate", Hormones and Behavior, vol. 73. Elsevier, pp. 148-155, 2015 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler and Fischer, J., "The blurred boundaries of functional reference: a response to Scarantino & Clay", Animal Behaviour, vol. 100. Elsevier, pp. e9-e13, 2015 [Online]. Available:
J. Fischer, Wheeler, B., and Higham, J., "Is there any evidence for vocal learning in chimpanzee food calls?", Current Biology, vol. 25. Elsevier, pp. R1-R2, 2015 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, Tiddi, B., and Heistermann, M., "Competition-induced stress does not explain deceptive alarm calling in tufted capuchin monkeys", Animal Behaviour, vol. 93. Elsevier, pp. 49-58, 2014 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, Scarry, C., and Koenig, A., "Rates of agonism among female primates: a cross-taxon perspective", Behavioral Ecology, vol. 24. Oxford Journals, pp. 1369-1380, 2013 [Online]. Available:
A. Koenig, Scarry, C., Wheeler, B., and Borries, C., "Variation in grouping patterns, mating systems and social structure: what socio-ecological models attempt to explain", Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 368. The Royal Society, p. , 2013 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler and Hammerschmidt, K., "Proximate factors underpinning receiver responses to deceptive false alarm calls in wild tufted capuchin monkeys: is it counterdeception?", American Journal of Primatology, vol. 75. Wiley, pp. 715-725, 2013 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, Tiddi, B., Kalbitzer, U., Visalberghi, E., and Heistermann, M., "Methodological considerations in the analysis of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites in tufted capuchins (Cebus apella)", International Journal of Primatology, vol. 34. Springer Verlag, pp. 879-898, 2013 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler and Fischer, J., "Functionally referential signals: a promising paradigm whose time has passed", Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews, vol. 21. Wiley, pp. 195-205, 2012 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, Bradley, B., and Kamilar, J., "Predictors of orbital convergence in primates: A test of the snake detection hypothesis of primate evolution", Journal of Human Evolution, vol. 61. Academic Press Elsevier Science, pp. 233-242, 2011 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Snakes! The Unified Theory of Everything about Primates?", Evolutionary Anthropology, vol. 19. Wiley, pp. 37-38, 2010 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Decrease in alarm call response among tufted capuchins in competitive feeding contexts: possible evidence for counterdeception", International Journal of Primatology, vol. 31. Springer Verlag, pp. 665-675, 2010 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Production and perception of situationally variable alarm calls in wild tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella nigritus)", Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, vol. 64. Springer, pp. 989-1000, 2010 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Community ecology of the Middle Miocene primates of La Venta, Colombia: the relationship between ecological diversity, divergence time, and phylogenetic richness", Primates, vol. 51. Springer Verlag, pp. 131-138, 2010 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Monkeys crying wolf? Tufted capuchin monkeys use anti-predator calls to usurp resources from conspecifics", Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, vol. 276. The Royal Society, pp. 3013-3018, 2009 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Selfish or altruistic? An analysis of alarm call function in wild capuchin monkeys, Cebus apella nigritus", Animal Behaviour, vol. 76. Elsevier, pp. 1465-1475, 2008 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler and Ungar, P., "Congruence of tail use behaviors between male and female mantled howling monkeys (Alouatta palliata)", Folia Primatologica, vol. 72. Karger, pp. 292-297, 2001 [Online]. Available:
Book section
M. Di Bitetti and Wheeler, B., "The vocal repertoire of the black horned capuchin monkey (Cebus [Sapajus] nigritus): an acoustic and contextual analysis", in Primatology in Argentina, M. M. Kowalewski and Oklander, L. I., Eds. Sociedad Argentina para el Estudio de los Mamíferos, 2017 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, "Deceptive Alarm Calls", in Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, T. K. Shackelford and Weekes-Shackelford, V., Eds. Springer, 2017.
D. Zinner and Wheeler, B., "Violence among our closest relatives--aggression in nonhuman primate societies", in Aggression in humans and other primates: biology, psychology, sociology, vol. 41, H. -H. Kortüm and Heinze, J., Eds. Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012, pp. 41-86 [Online]. Available:
B. Wheeler, Searcy, W., Christiansen, M., Corballis, M., Fischer, J., Grüter, C., Margoliash, D., Owren, M., Price, T., Seyfarth, R., and Wild, M., "Communication", in Animal thinking: contemporary issues in comparative cognition, R. Menzel and Fischer, J., Eds. MIT Press, 2011, pp. 187-205 [Online]. Available:
B. Tiddi, Fahy, M., Heistermann, M., and Wheeler, B., "Male resource defence mating system test in primates? An experimental test in wild capuchin monkeys", PLoS ONE. Public Library of Science, 2017.
Total publications in KAR: 25 [See all in KAR]


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Modules Convened

  • SE557 – Primate Communication
  • SE605 – Hormones and Behaviour

I also contribute to:

  • SE302 – Foundations of Biological Anthropology
  • SE307 – Thinkers and Theories
  • SE308– Skills for Anthropology and Conservation
  • SE567 – Methods in Anthropological Science
  • SE580 – Primate Behaviour and Ecology
  • SE992 – Advanced Topics in Evolutionary Anthropology
  • SE993 – Advanced Topics in Primate Behaviour 

and supervise student research in:

  • SE533 – Project in Anthropological Science
  • SE855 – Research Project (Evolution & Human Behaviour)
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I am broadly interested in the behavioural ecology of nonhuman primates. My current work in Iguazú, Argentina aims to test whether capuchins acquire recognition of heterospecific alarm calls through associative and/or social learning. In addition, I am working in collaboration with Barbara Tiddi to investigate aspects of female sexual signalling and mate choice among capuchins. Beyond fieldwork, I am using modeling and phylogenetic comparative analyses to test and refine socioecological models of primate evolution. My interest in predation on primates has also led me to work on side projects focused on understanding what, if anything, primate alarm calls can tell us about the evolution of human language, as well as understanding the role of predators on the evolution of the primate visual system.

Current research projects

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  • Caroline Howlett: 'Expression of the 2D:4D digit ratio across the Primate Order'
  • Adriana Lowe: 'Maternal strategies in wild Ugandan chimpanzees'
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PublicationI have worked with the BBC for the Monkey Planet series and World Service for segments on deceptive communication in capuchin monkeys. I am able to provide commentary and discussion on topics related to capuchin monkeys, primatology, animal deception and animal communication.

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Last Updated: 25/01/2018