Grooming Between Male Chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park. I. Partner Number and Diversity and Grooming Reciprocity

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Allogrooming serves many social functions in primates. Grooming can help individuals to service social relationships generally, sometimes reciprocally, and may be particularly important in the development and maintenance of alliances. However, time constraints limit the number of partners with whom one individual can groom enough to maintain cooperative relationships. As a result, the size of its grooming network may reach an asymptote as the size of its group increases, and it may distribute its grooming less equally among potential partners. Chimpanzees live in multimale, fission-fusion communities; males are philopatric, and commonly associate and groom with each other. Males form within-community alliances that influence dominance rank and access to mates, and allies groom with each other regularly; males also cooperate in aggression between communities. The chimpanzee community at Ngogo, in Kibale National Park, Uganda, is unusually large and has more males than any other known community. Field data show that adult Ngogo males groomed far more with other adult males than with females or with adolescent males, in contrast to a previous report (Ghiglieri, 1984). Adolescent males groomed adults much more than the reverse; males groomed and were groomed by females about equally. Individual males groomed mostly with a small number of other males. On average, males at Ngogo had only slightly more male grooming partners overall and had the same number of important partners as those of males in a much smaller community in the Mahale National Park, Tanzania, and they distributed their grooming less equitably. These results fit those expected if limits on available grooming time cause males to have a loyalty problem as the number of potential grooming and alliance partners increases. Despite differences in the extent and equitability of their grooming networks, males at both Ngogo and Mahale showed reciprocity in grooming. Grooming reciprocity has been demonstrated for captive chimpanzee males, but the Ngogo findings are the first demonstrations of reciprocity in wild communities.

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