Dr Jacob C. Dunn

Senior Lecturer in Zoology

Faculty:Faculty of Science & Technology


Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and environmental biology

Courses taught: Zoology, Animal Behaviour, Marine Biology with Biodiversity and Conservation

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

Follow Jacob on Twitter or view his profile on Research Gate


Jacob joined the Department of Biology 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 and the University of Veracruz, Mexico.

Over the last couple of years, Jacob has been developing two main research projects. The first investigates the evolution of primate coat colour, using comparative data from zoo animals and museum specimens. The second examines vocal production in howler monkeys and other primates. Both projects use an interdisciplinary approach to understand how habitat, socio-ecology, health, physiology and life history traits relate to variation in phenotypic traits important for communication and reproduction.

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.

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 research students in the areas of his research interests.

Find out more about our Biology PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.



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

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Associate Lecturer – Division of Biological Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Affiliated Scholar – McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge
  • 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

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., Garcia, M., Dunn, J.C., Kerney, M., Stewart, A., Hantke, G., Kitchener, A., Handschuhe, S., Dengg, S., Gumpenberger, M., Fitch, W.T.S., 2017. Mechanistic determinants of vocalization in primates and carnivores. BMC Evolutionary Biology (in press).

Asensio, N., Jose-Dominguez, J.M., Dunn, J.C., 2017. Socioecological factors affecting territoriality among howler monkeys. International Journal of Primatology (in press).

Dunn, J.C., Cristobal-Azkarate, J., Rodriguez-Luna, E., Knapp, L., 2017. Predicting the effects of climate change and habitat destruction on the conservation of Mexican primates: current perspectives and future prospects. In: Bodenhorn B., & Irvine, R. eds. 2017. In the name of climate change. Berghahn Press (in press).

Kerney, M., Smears, J., Schoenemann, T., 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., 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., 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

Bowling, D.L., Garcia, M., Dunn, J.C., Ruprecht, R., Stewart, A., & 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).

Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Dunn, J.C., Domingo-Balcells, C., and Vea, J.J., 2015. 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. PeerJ PrePrints, 3: e800v1.

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 MailNewsweekThe Independent – The Australian – Reuters – The Conversation – Discover – MotherboardThe OnionSlate

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

Video: Discovery Channel – Cambridge University You Tube Channel