, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 195-217

First online:

Differential effects of kinship, dominance, and the mating season on female allogrooming in a captive group ofMacaca fuscata

  • Patrick T. MehlmanAffiliated withDépartment d'Anthropologie, Université de Montréal
  • , Bernard ChapaisAffiliated withDépartment d'Anthropologie, Université de Montréal

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An analysis of allogrooming (total times spent grooming individual partners) of 8 sexually mature females (3–12 years of age) in a captive group of 17 Japanese macaques, shows that during the nonmating season, grooming distributions were characterized by high proportions of grooming given to family members and/or higher ranking nonkin. During the mating season, all eight females showed significant shifts in their grooming distributions, and four females showed significant shifts in grooming between their nonestrous and estrous periods (defined behaviorally). Fox six of eight females, mating season grooming was characterized by either high proportions of grooming given to family members and/or heterosexual and homosexual partners. It was found that within dyadic sexual relationships, dominants gave more grooming to subordinates than the former received, in contrast to a reversal of this pattern in the majority of these same dyads during the nonmating season. This is interpreted as one short-term function of grooming: a dominant asymmetrically grooms a subordinate sexual partner to maintain proximity with (or reduce tension in) the latter. The two remaining focal females (middle ranking, nulliparous) differed from the other females in that they shifted their mating season grooming to subordinate nonkin, despite the lack of evidence that this was a result of sexual interactions, patterns of partner availability, competition, patterns of grooming reciprocity, or agonistic alliance support. From these results, it is suggested that in some contexts, grooming of subordinate nonkin may function to reduce tension in thegroomer. In the Japanese macaque, this latter possibility and the asymmetric grooming of subordinate homosexual partners may prove to be exceptions to the general rule that female cercopithecine grooming of nonkin flows up the dominance hierarchy.

Key Words

Grooming Kinship: Dominance Estrus Macaca fuscata