Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 55-60

First online:

Competitive regimes and female bonding in two species of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri oerstedi and S. sciureus)

  • Carol L. MitchellAffiliated withDepartment of Biology, Princeton University
  • , Sue BoinskiAffiliated withLaboratory of Comparative Ethology, National Institutes of Health-Animal Center
  • , Carel P. van SchaikAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University

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Ecological and behavioral data from long-term field studies of known individuals in two closely related squirrel monkey species (Saimiri oerstedi and S. sciureus) were used to examine hypotheses about the source of variation in female bonding among group-living primates. Social relationships in species which live in cohesive groups are thought to depend on the nature of competition for resources. S. oerstedi and S. sciureus both live in large groups and are subject to intense predation. Direct feeding competition both between and within groups is extremely low in S. oerstedi; in this species female relationships are undifferentiated, no female dominance hierarchy is evident and females disperse from their natal group. S. sciureus also experiences very low levels of between-group competition, but within-group direct competition for resources is frequent; this species demonstrates differentiated female relationships, a female dominance hierarchy, and female philopatry. The correlated ecological and social variables found in these two congeners further minimize the minor effects of phylogenetic differences and emphasize the importance of food distribution in determining social characteristics.