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Institute of Evolutionary Medicine (IEM)

Sociality and health among the Tsimane’ of Bolivia

Summary of Research

The Tsimane’ are an indigenous group living in Amazonian Bolivia. Their traditional lifestyle – high pathogen loads, natural fertility, daily subsistence, small communities – arguably reveals some of the same selection pressures experienced throughout most of human evolutionary history; at the same time, many Tsimane’ are transitioning to a more Westernized lifestyle. As such, we study the influence of socio-ecological conditions on social behavior, mental health, and various physical health outcomes assessed by a roaming medical team that also provides health care. We also test adaptive hypotheses and measure the strength and direction of selection on phenotypic traits.

Project Leader

Selected Published Articles

  • Jaeggi AV, Blackwell AD, von Rueden C, Trumble BC, Stieglitz J, Garcia AR, Kraft TS, Beheim BA, Hooper PL, Kaplan H, Gurven M. (2021). Do wealth and inequality associate with health in a small-scale subsistence society? eLife 10:e59437
  • Gurven M, Kraft TS, Alami S, Copajira Adrian J, Cortez Linares E, Cummings D, Eid Rodriguez D, Hooper PL, Jaeggi AV, Quispe Gutierrez R, Maldonado Suarez I, Seabright E, Kaplan HL, Stieglitz J, Trumble BC. (2020) Rapidly declining body temperature in a tropical human population. Science Advances 6 eabc6599
  • Jaeggi AV, Hooper PL, Beheim BA, Kaplan H, Gurven M (2016) Reciprocal exchange patterned by market forces helps explain cooperation in a small-scale society. Current Biology 26:2180-2187.
  • Gurven M, Jaeggi AV, von Rueden C, Hooper PL, Kaplan H (2015) Does market integration buffer risk, increase inequality, and erode traditional sharing practices? Evidence from Tsimane’ forager-horticulturalists. Human Ecology 43:515530.
  • Stieglitz J, Jaeggi AV, Blackwell A, Trumble BC, Gurven M, Kaplan H (2014) Work to live and live to work: Productivity, transfers, and psychological well-being in adulthood and old age. In: Sociality, hierarchy, health: Comparative biodemography. Weinstein M, Lane M, eds. National Academies Press.
  • Gurven M, Jaeggi AV, Kaplan HS, Cummings D (2013). Physical activity and modernization among Bolivian Amerindians. PLOS One 8:e55679