Alpha male chimpanzee grooming patterns: implications for dominance "style".

Journal Article (Journal Article)

In social primates, individuals use various tactics to compete for dominance rank. Grooming, displays and contact aggression are common components of a male chimpanzee's dominance repertoire. The optimal combination of these behaviors is likely to differ among males with individuals exhibiting a dominance "style" that reflects their tendency to use cooperative and/or agonistic dominance tactics. Here, we examine the grooming behavior of three alpha male chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. We found that (1) these males differed significantly in their tendency to groom with other males; (2) each male's grooming patterns remained consistent before, during and after his tenure as alpha, and (3) the three males tended to groom with high- middle- and low-ranking partners equally. We suggest that body mass may be one possible determinant of differences in grooming behavior. The largest male exhibited the lowest overall grooming rates, whereas the smallest male spent the most time grooming others. This is probably because large males are more effective at physically intimidating subordinates. To achieve alpha status, a small male may need to compensate for reduced size by investing more time and energy in grooming, thereby ensuring coalitionary support from others. Rates of contact aggression and charging displays conformed to this prediction, suggesting that each male exhibited a different dominance "style."

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Foster, MW; Gilby, IC; Murray, CM; Johnson, A; Wroblewski, EE; Pusey, AE

Published Date

  • February 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 71 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 136 - 144

PubMed ID

  • 19025996

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-2345

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0275-2565

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajp.20632


  • eng