The relationship between social play and developmental milestones in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii).


Journal Article

Social play is common among many group-living animals, but the benefits are not well understood. Proposed benefits include increased muscle coordination as the result of increased locomotor versatility and development, and strengthened social bonds through interactions with like-aged individuals. In this study, we used 33 years of long-term behavioral data on infant chimpanzees in Gombe National Park, Tanzania, to examine these potential benefits of social play, specifically how the percentage of time engaged in social play relates to motor and social developmental milestones. We predicted that infants who engaged in more social play would achieve motor and social milestones at younger ages. We found that individuals that spent more time engaging in social play achieved the motor milestones of riding dorsally and traveling independently at earlier ages. Additionally, we found that the amount of play was correlated with earlier ages for reaching the social milestones of spatial independence from mother, first grooming of non-maternal kin, and first observed mating attempt. This is the first study in great apes to demonstrate a relationship between play behavior and developmental milestones, supporting the hypotheses that play provides motor, and social benefits.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Heintz, MR; Murray, CM; Markham, AC; Pusey, AE; Lonsdorf, EV

Published Date

  • December 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 79 / 12

PubMed ID

  • 29168188

Pubmed Central ID

  • 29168188

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-2345

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0275-2565

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajp.22716


  • eng