Male chimpanzees form enduring and equitable social bonds

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
John C. Mitani
Animal Behaviour
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Controversy exists regarding the nature of primate social relationships. While individual primates are frequently hypothesized to form enduring social bonds with conspecifics, recent studies suggest that relationships are labile, with animals interacting only over short periods to satisfy their immediate needs. Here I use data collected over 10 years on a community of chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes, at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, to investigate whether male chimpanzees establish long-term social relationships and to determine the factors that affect variation in relationship quality and the stability of social bonds. Kinship and dominance rank influenced the quality of relationships. Maternal brothers and males of the same dominance rank class groomed each other more equitably than did unrelated males and males that were dissimilar in rank. In addition, males that formed strong social bonds groomed more equitably than did males that displayed weaker bonds. Social bonds were stable over time, with relationships in one year predicting those in subsequent years. Kinship and the quality of social relationships affected bond stability. Maternal half siblings and males that groomed each other equitably maintained longer-lasting bonds than did nonkin and males that groomed each other unevenly. Virtually all of the males established at least one enduring relationship with another individual. The most enduring bonds formed between a few pairs of maternal brothers and dyads that maintained balanced grooming interactions. These results indicate that male chimpanzees maintain long-lasting and equitable social bonds whose formation is affected by maternal kinship and the quality of social relationships.


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