Dr Jacob C Dunn

Associate Professor in Evolutionary Biology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and environmental biology

Research Supervision:Yes

Courses taught: Animal Behaviour, Marine and Terrestrial Conservation

Jacob is a behavioural ecologist, broadly interested in the biology and evolution of communication systems in humans and other animals (mostly primates). 

jacob.dunn@aru.ac.uk
Follow Jacob on Twitter or view his profile on Research Gate

Background

Jacob joined the School of Life Sciences as a Senior Lecturer in July 2016. From 2012–2016, he was a Lecturer in the Division of Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge.

He originally trained in Zoology at the University of Edinburgh. He then went on to study for an MSc and PhD in Anthropology and Primatology at the University of Barcelona. From 2010–2012, he carried out postdoctoral research at the University of Cambridge.

Over the last few years, Jacob has been carrying out research into primate vocal communication and the evolution of language. His research takes a broad comparative perspective, ranging from detailed descriptions of vocal anatomy, through to recording animal sounds, carrying out playback experiments, and using macroevolutionary analyses to test evolutionary hypotheses.

He collaborates closely with the Fitch lab in the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna.

Jacob is the Director of our Behavioural Ecology Research Group.

Spoken Languages

Spanish and English

Research interests

  • Bioacoustics
  • Vocal production
  • Evolution of language
  • Sexual selection
  • Phylogenetic comparative methods (macroevolution)
  • Behavioural ecology
  • Functional morphology
  • Eco-physiology
  • Primatology

Areas of research supervision

Jacob welcomes enquiries from prospective PhD students and Postdocs in the areas of his research interests.

PhD Students
2020 - Sophie Orme, Behavioural Ecology Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘A morpho-functional and biomechanical analysis of the primate knee’

2020 - Jen Muir, Behavioural Ecology Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘The role of non-linear phenomena in the vocal behaviour of titi monkeys (Callicebinae spp.)’

2019 – Fiene Steinbrecher, Behavioural Ecology Research Group, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘The effect of the acoustic environment on captive pied tamarins’

2019 – Natalia Maya Lastra, Instituto de Neuroetologia, Universidad Veracruzana (Co-Supervisor) – ‘Morpholoical, acoustic and social mechanisms for male-male competition in primates’

2019 – Gaius de Schmidt, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (Co-Supervisor) ‘Communication and social behaviour in carrion crows (Corvus corone corone)’

2017 – Tainara Sobroza, Grupo de Pesquisas de Mamíferos Amazônicos, Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia, Brazil (Co-Supervisor) – 'Sounds, Cities and “Sauins”: the effect of acoustic environment on pied tamarin (Saguinus bicolor) (Primates: Callitrichidae) vocal behaviour'

2017 – Robin Morrison, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘Cooperation, kinship and territoriality in gorillas’

2017 – Denise Hebesberger, Dept. Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (Co-Supervisor) – ‘Benefits of social bonds in horses’

2017 – Alice Poirier, Dept. Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (Co-Supervisor) – ‘Making sense of scents: primate scent-marking behaviour and semiochemistry’

2017 – Max Kerney, Dept. Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘What drove primate brain evolution? An analysis of competing hypotheses’

Completed (2017 – 2020) – Alice Poirier, Dept. Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (Co-Supervisor) – ‘Making sense of scents: primate scent-marking behaviour and semiochemistry’

Completed (2017 – 2020) – Robin Morrison, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘Cooperation, kinship and territoriality in gorillas’

Completed (2012 – 2016) - Monica Alcocer-Rodríguez, Dept. Psychology, University of Barcelona (1st Supervisor) – ‘Demographic evolution of Alouatta palliata in a forest fragments: migration, relatedness and habitat characteristics’

Completed (2014 – 2016) - Jenna Dittmar, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge (Co-supervisor) – ‘An archaeological examination of human dissection and its role in anatomical education in England from 1600-1900’

Masters Research Students
2020 – 2021 James Harris, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor)

2019 – 2020 Ash Caulfield, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor)

2019 – 2020 Rhiannon Aylward, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor)

Completed (2019 – 2020) – Kirsten Sutherland, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘Secondary sexual development in howler monkeys (Alouatta)’

Completed (2019 – 2020) – Miguel Duarte, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘On the ecological determinants of howler monkey social organization’

Completed (2018 – 2019) – L uis de Oliveira-Paes-Leme, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘Survival of the smartest: Investigating the influences of climatic, dietary and social factors on hominid brain evolution’ Completed (2018 – 2019) – Rachel Palkovitz, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) - ‘Geometric Morphometrics of the Larynx Complex in Non-Human Primates’

Completed (2018 – 2019) – Sophie Orme, School of Life Sciences, Anglia Ruskin University (1st Supervisor) – ‘An investigation into hyoid bone morphology and its influence on extinction risk in Primates’

Completed (2017 – 2018) – Tim Megaponos, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – Exploring the phylogeny of primate & mammalian brains: adaptive molecular evolution of neural phenotypes

Completed (2017 – 2018) – Martin Cao, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – A morphometric analysis of primate hyoid bones: implications for the evolution of speech. 

Completed (2016 – 2017) – Megan Beardmore-Herd, Dept. Archaeology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘The evolution of human language and the recognition of informative intentions’

Completed (2015 – 2016) – David Momjian, Dept. Archaeology & Anthropology, University of Cambridge (1st Supervisor) – ‘Variation in hyoid shape in Alouatta: using principal component analysis to quantify morphological change’

Teaching

BSc (Hons) Zoology

BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour

BSc (Hons) Marine and Terrestrial Conservation

Qualifications

  • PhD Primate Behavioural Ecology, Universidad de Barcelona
  • MSc Primatology & Anthropology, Universidad de Barcelona
  • BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of Edinburgh

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Affiliated Lecturer in Biological Anthropology – Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Director of the Harrison Collection, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge
  • Affiliated Scholar – McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
  • Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna
  • Member – Primate Society of Great Britain, International Primatological Society, Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation, Mexican Primatological Society, IUCN Conservation Assessment and Management Team for Mesoamerican Primates

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

• 2020 – 2021 Principal Investigator (Co-Is – Prof. Marta Lahr & Dr Andrew Gillis) - University of Cambridge - Project title: The evolution of speech: insight from variation in primate laryngeal anatomy - Funding: Cambridge Language Sciences Network & Issac Newton Trust (£3,500)

• 2019 – 2022 Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PIs – Dr Dannielle Green & Dr Bas Boots) - Anglia Ruskin University - Project title: Developing a carbon capture device based upon sea snake gaseous exchange - Funding: Hydrophis Gas (£340,000)

• 2019 – 2022 Principal Investigator - Anglia Ruskin University - Project title: The Harrison collection: curating and digitising a unique database of mammalian larynges - Funding: Rhinology and Laryngology Research Fund (£10,000)

• 2019 – 2020 Principal Investigator - Anglia Ruskin University - Project title: The evolution of speech: insight from variation in primate laryngeal anatomy - Funding: Anglia Ruskin University (£66,000)

• 2018 – 2019 Principal Investigator - Department of Biology, Anglia Ruskin University - Project title: The evolution of speech: insight from variation in laryngeal anatomy - Funding: Royal Society (£20,000)

• 2018 – 2020 Co-Investigator (PI – Tainara Sobroza) - Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia - Project title: Sounds, Cities and Sauins: the effect of acoustic environment in the pied tamarin (Saguinus bicolor) (Primates: Callitrichidae) vocal behavior - Collaborators: Adrian Barnett, Marcelo Gordo - Funding: National Geographic ($5,000), Idea Wild (equipment) & International Primatological Society ($1,500)

• 2017 – 2018 Principal Investigator - Department of Biology, Anglia Ruskin University - Project title: Married at first sight (TV series) – biological predictors of human attraction - Funding: Channel 4 (£7,500)

• 2015 – 2016 Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI – Dr Peter Walsh) - Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge - Project title: Google vs Goodall - Funding: Isaac Newton Trust (£9,000)

• 2014 – 2016 Principal Investigator - Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge - Project title: The importance of play in cognitive evolution - Funding: Cambridge Humanities Research Grants Scheme (£1,420)

• 2014 – 2016 Principal Investigator - PrIME Research Group, University of Cambridge - Project title: Coat colour in black howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya): an honest signal of male quality? - Funding: Isaac Newton Trust & University of Cambridge (£12,885)

• 2012 – 2015 Principal Investigator - PrIME Research Group, University of Cambridge - Project title: The evolution of speech: insight from variation in primate hyoid morphology - Funding: Isaac Newton Trust & University of Cambridge (£17,187)

Selected recent publications

Publications below are selected papers from 2013 onwards – for a full list of please see Google Scholar or ResearchGate.

Bowling, D.L.*, Dunn, J.C.*, Smaers, J., Garcia, M., Kerney, M., Stewart, A., Hanke, G., Kitchener, A., Handschuhe, S., Dengg, S., Gumpenberger, M. & Fitch, W.T.S. 2020. Rapid evolution of the primate larynx. PLOS Biology 18(8): e3000764 - * equal contributions

Melo-Carrilo, A., Dunn, J.C., Cortes-Ortiz, L. 2020. Low genetic diversity and limited genetic structure across the range of the critically endangered Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana). American Journal of Primatology e23160.

Alcocer-Rodriguez, M., Arroyo-Rodriguez, V., Galan-Acedo, C., Cristobal-Azkarate, J., Asensio, N., Rito, K., Hawes, J., Vea-Baro, J., Dunn, J.C. 2020. Evaluating extinction debt in fragmented forests: the rapid recovery of a critically endangered primate. Animal Conservation (early view online)

Morrison, M., Dunn, J.C., Illera, G., Walsh, P., Bermejo, M. 2020. Western gorilla space use suggests territoriality. Nature Scientific Reports 10: 3692.

O’Mahoney, T., McKnight, L., Lowe, T., Mednikova, M., Dunn, J.C. 2020. A machine learning based approach to the segmentation of micro CT data in archaeological and evolutionary sciences. Bioarxiv. doi: 10.1101/859983

Garcia, M.*, Dunn, J.C.*. 2020. No evidence that maximum fundamental frequency reflects selection for signal diminution in bonobos. Current Biology 29: 732-733 - *equal contributions.

Dunn, J.C., and Smaers, J.B. 2018. Neural correlates of vocal repertoire in primates. Frontiers in Neuroscience

Herbst, C., and Dunn, J.C. 2018. Fundamental frequency estimation of low-quality electroglottographic signals. Journal of Voice (in press). 

Dunn, J.C., Cristobal-Azkarate, J., Rodriguez-Luna, E., and Knapp, L. 2018. Predicting the effects of climate change and habitat destruction on the conservation of Mexican primates: current perspectives and future prospects. In: In the name of climate change. Bodenhorn B, Irvine R (eds.). Berghahn Press (in press).

Dunn, J.C. 2018. Sexual selection and the loss of laryngeal air sacs during the evolution of speech. Anthropological Science, 126(1), pp. 

Herbst, C., and Dunn, J.C. 2018. Non-invasive documentation of primate sound production using electroglottography. Anthropological Science, 126(1), pp. 19-27.

Asensio, N., Jose-Dominguez, J.M., and Dunn, J.C. 2018. Socioecological factors affecting territoriality among howler monkeys. International Journal of Primatology 39(1), pp. 90-104. 

Kerney, M., Smears, J., Schoenemann, T., and Dunn, J.C. 2017. The coevolution of play and the cortico-cerebellar system in primates. Primates (early online view).

Garcia, M., Herbst, C., Bowling, D., Dunn, J.C., and Fitch, W.T. 2017. Acoustic allometry revisited: morphological determinants of fundamental frequency in primate vocal production. Nature Scientific Reports, 7(1), pp.10450.

Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Dunn, J.C., Domingo-Balcells, C., and Vea, J.J. 2017. A ten-year history of demographic change in a population of free-ranging howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) living in a fragmented landscape in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. Peer J, 5: e3547

Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Dias, P.A., Vegas-Carillo, S., Hervier, B., Dunn, J.C., Asensio, N., Rodríguez-Luna, E., and Vea-Baro, J.J. 2017. Los efectos de la fragmentación del hábitat sobre las poblaciones de monos aulladores de manto en Los Tuxtlas: una visión integrada. In: Avances y perspectivas en la investigación de los bosques tropicales y sus alrededores: La región de Los Tuxtlas. Reynoso-Rosales VH, Coates R & Vázquez Cruz M (eds.). UNAM Press, Mexico City.

Bowling, D.L., Garcia, M., Dunn, J.C., Ruprecht, R., Stewart, A., and Frommolt, K., 2017. Body size and vocalization in primates and carnivores. Nature Scientific Reports, 7(41070), pp. 1–11.

Dunn, J.C., and Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., 2016. New World monkeys. Nature Education Knowledge, 7(6), pp.1.

Dunn, J.C., Halenar, L., Davies, T., Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Fitch, T., and Knapp, L., 2015. Evolutionary trade off between vocal tract and testes dimensions in howler monkey, Current Biology, 25, pp.2839-2844 (cover story).

Ordóñez-Gómez, J.D., Dunn, J.C., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Santillán Doherty, A.M., Méndez-Cárdenas, M.G., and Márquez-Arias, A., 2015. Role of emitter and severity of aggression influence the agonistic vocalizations of Geoffroy’s spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). American Journal of Primatology, 36, pp.429-440.

Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Dunn, J.C., Day, J., and Amábile-Cuevas, C., 2014. Resistance to antibiotics of clinical relevance in the fecal microbiota of Mexican wildlife. PLoS One, e107719.

Dunn, J.C., Shedden-González, A., Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Cortés-Ortiz, L., Rodríguez-Luna, E., and Knapp L., 2014. Limited genetic diversity in the critically endangered Mexican howler monkey (Alouatta palliata mexicana) in the Selva Zoque, Mexico. Primates, 55, pp.155-160.

Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Asensio, N., Dunn, J.C., Cristóbal-Azkarate, J. and Gonzalez-Zamora, A., 2014. Use of lianas by primates: more than a food source. In: Schnitzer, S., Bongers, F., Burnham, R., and Putz, F., eds. 2014. Ecology of lianas. Springer Press, pp.407-426.

Dunn, J.C., Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Chavira, R., and Veà, J., 2013. Travel time predicts fecal glucocorticoid levels in free-ranging howler monkeys. International Journal of Primatology, 34, pp.246-259.

Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., and Dunn, J.C., 2013. Lessons from Los Tuxtlas: 30 years of research into primates in fragments. In: Marsh, L. and Chapman, C., eds. 2013. Primates in fragments: complexity and resilience. Springer. New York, pp.75-88.

Marsh, L.K., Chapman, C.A., Arroyo-Rodriguez, V., Cobden, A.K., Dunn, J.C., Gabriel, D., Ghai, R.R., Nijman, V., Reyna-Hurtado, R., Serio-Silva, J.C. and Wasserman, M.D., 2013. Primates in fragments ten years later: once and future goals. In: Marsh, L. and Chapman, C., eds. 2013. Primates in fragments: complexity and resilience. Springer. New York, pp. 503- 523.

Dunn, J.C., Asensio, N., Arroyo-Rodríguez, V., Schnitzer, S., and Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., 2013. The ranging costs of a fallback food: liana consumption supplements diet but increases foraging effort in howler monkeys. Biotropica, 44, pp.705-714.

Recent presentations and conferences

For a full list of papers in preparation and review, research projects and funding, honours and awards, invited lectures, conference participation, popular science papers, etc., please see CV.

Media experience

Jacob is active in scientific outreach and has been interviewed about his research by the media on many occasions – some examples, below:

Print: ScienceBBC NewsNew Scientist – Discover Magazine – New York Times Washington PostThe TelegraphThe Daily Mail – Newsweek – The Independent – The Australian – Reuters – The Conversation – Discover – MotherboardThe OnionSlate- Nature

Audio: BBC Radio 5 liveBBC Radio World Service – BBC Radio Cambridgeshire – BBC Radio 2 News - The Naked ScientistsScientific American

Video: Discovery ChannelCambridge University You Tube Channel – Channel 4