Functional Implications of Allogrooming in Cercocebus torquatus

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We examined the hygienic functional hypothesis of allogrooming in two captive groups (N = 9 and N = 8) of white-crowned mangabeys (Cercocebus torquatus lunulatus) by analyzing the corporeal distribution of allogrooming solicitations according to the variable degree of accessibility of the various body sites. We used focal-animal sampling and continuous recording and nonparametric statistics (sing test and χ2). The fact that in both groups more allogrooming was solicited to sites associated with accessibility problems is consistent with the hygienic functional hypothesis of allogrooming. In any case, there are two facts that suggest that this hypothesis cannot account for all the characteristics of such behavior: 1) the strong distributional selectivity shown by allogrooming solicitations—they concentrated primarily on dorsal and caudal regions instead of those difficult to reach or inaccessible on the whole—and 2) the significant role played by sex in the intragroup distribution of anogenital solicitations. Supporting the multifunctional nature of allogrooming, we find very appealing the ritualization hypothesis, according to which the allogrooming performed on certain body sites would have acquired a sociocommunicative meaning.

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