Michael L Wilson

I study the behavior and biology of chimpanzees because study of our closest living relatives provides many fascinating insights into the possible lives of our ancestors and provides a context for understanding ourselves today. My research focuses on intergroup relations. Long-term studies at sites across Africa have revealed that intergroup relations in chimpanzees are routinely hostile and sometimes violent. Such intergroup aggression provides a striking example of competition that depends on within-group cooperation, and has inspired numerous comparisons to primitive human warfare. Until recently, however, few data were available on this topic, and little had been done to test specific hypotheses. My goal as a researcher has been to fill this gap by obtaining quantitative, systematic data on intergroup aggression and other territorial behaviors, and to test hypotheses using field experiments and analysis of long-term data. My work focuses on data from Gombe National Park, Tanzania and Kibale National Park, Uganda.

Educational Background & Specialties

Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: Anthropology, Harvard University, 2001.
  • AB: Biological Sciences, University of Chicago, 1992.

Curriculum Vitae


  • Primate behavior and ecology
  • Warfare and human evolution
Courses Taught
  • ANTH 1001: Human Evolution
  • ANTH/EEB 3002: Sex, Evolution and Behavior
  • ANTH 4009W: Warfare and Human Evolution
  • EEB/ANTH 4329: Primate Ecology and Social Behavior
  • ANTH 5009: Human Behavioral Biology
  • Wilson, M. L., C. Boesch, B. Fruth, T. Furuichi, I. C. Gilby, C. Hashimoto, C. Hobaiter, G. Hohman, N. Itoh, K. Koops, J. Lloyd, T. Matsuzawa, J. C. Mitani, D. C. Mjungu, D. Morgan, R. Mundry, M. N. Muller, M. Nakamura, J. D. Pruetz, A. E. Pusey, J. Riedel, C. Sanz, A. M. Schel, N. Simmons, M. Waller, D. P. Watts, F. J. White, R. M. Wittig, K. Zuberbu?hler and R. W. Wrangham (2014). "Lethal aggression in Pan is better explained by adaptive strategies than human impacts." Nature 513: 414-417.
  • Wilson, M. L. (2013). Chimpanzees, warfare and the invention of peace. In: D. P. Fry (Ed.), War, Peace, and Human Nature. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 361-388. Download
  • Gilby, I. C., M. L. Wilson and A. E. Pusey (2013). Ecological and social correlates of inter-group aggression and predation in male chimpanzees. Animal Behaviour. 86: 61-74. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.04.012 Download
  • Wilson, M. L., S. M. Kahlenberg, M. T. Wells and R. W. Wrangham (2012). "Ecological and social factors affect the occurrence and outcomes of intergroup encounters in chimpanzees." Animal Behaviour 83(1): 277-291.
  • Wilson, M. L. (2012). Long-term studies of the Gombe chimpanzees. In: P. Kappeler & D. P. Watts (Eds.), Long-term Field Studies of Primates. New York: Springer. ISBN 978-3-642-22513-0
  • Rudicell, R. S., J. H. Jones, E. E. Wroblewski, L. G. H., Y. Li, E. Greengrass, F. Grossmann, S. Kamenya, L. Pintea, D. C. Mjungu, E. V. Lonsdorf, A. Mosser, D. A. Collins, B. F. Keele, J. Goodall, A. E. Pusey, B. Hahn and M. L. Wilson. (2010). Impact of Simian Immunodeficiency Virus on chimpanzee population dynamics. PLoS Pathogens, 6(9): e1001116 Download
  • Keele, B. F., Jones, J. H., Terio, K. A., Estes, J. D., Rudicell, R. S., Wilson, M. L., Li, Y., Learn, G. H., Beasley, T. M., Schumacher-Stankey, J., Wroblewski, E. E., Mosser, A., Raphael, J., Kamenya, S., Lonsdorf, E. V., Travis, D. A., Mlengeya, T., Kinsel, M. J., Else, J. G., Silvestri, G., Goodall, J., Sharp, P. M., Shaw, G. M., Pusey, A., E. & Hahn, B. H. 2009. Increased mortality and AIDS-like immunopathology in wild chimpanzees infected with SIVcpz. Nature, 460, 515-519.
  • Wilson, M. L.& Wrangham, R. W. 2003. Intergroup relations in chimpanzees. Annual Review of Anthropology, 32, 363-392. Download
  • Visiting Scholar, Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Evolutionary Biology, University of Montpellier-2, Montpellier, France. , 2013 - 2014
  • McKnight Land-Grant Professorship, University of Minnesota, 2008 - 2010
  • National Science Foundation: "Socioecology of territorial behavior in chimpanzees", 2007 - 2009