Grooming Between Male Chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park. II. Influence of Male Rank and Possible Competition for Partners

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Allogrooming contributes to the development and maintenance of social relationships, including those that involve alliances, in many primate species. Variation in relatedness, dominance rank, and other factors can produce variation in the value of others as grooming partners. Several models have been developed to account for variation in the distribution of grooming in relation to dominance ranks. These start from the premise that individuals are attracted to high-ranking partners, but time limits, direct competition, and prior grooming engagement between high-ranking individuals can constrain access to them. Sambrook et al. (1995) formalized some of these models and showed the importance of taking group size variation into account when assessing them. Chimpanzees form multimale communities in which males are the philopatric sex. Males commonly associate and groom with each other; they also form dominance hierarchies and form alliances that influence dominance ranks and mating success. Both male rank and the rank distance between partners are significantly correlated with the distribution of grooming between males in an extremely large chimpanzee community at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, that has more males than any other known community. High-ranking males had more grooming partners than mid- or low-ranking males. Grooming predominantly went up the dominance hierarchy, but was also concentrated among males that were close in rank. Rank and rank distance apparently both affected grooming independently of reciprocity in grooming and independently of the frequency with which males associated in temporary parties. However, the data do not clearly indicate how constraints on access to partners might have operated. Published data from a smaller chimpanzee community at Mahale show no rank or rank distance effect on male grooming. These results and earlier, conflicting findings on the association between dominance rank and grooming in male chimpanzees indicate that variation in group size, i.e., the number of males per community, probably influences the strength of any such effects, as happens for grooming between females in several cercopithecine species. Data on coalitions at Ngogo support the argument that high-ranking males are valuable social partners, and similarity in strategies of alliance formation may influence the distribution of grooming.

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