, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 323-335

Quantitative observations of grooming behavior in free-rangingMacaca mulatta

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Abstract

Quantitative methods of observation and analysis were used in a 12-month study of grooming behavior of free-rangingMacaca mulatta on La Cueva Island at La Parguera, Puerto Rico. Observations lasting 30–120 minutes were made from eight positions on the island at a standard time of day when monkeys were either feeding or resting. Two dependent variables were obtained: (1) the number of monkeys present in the observation area were noted by age and sex class at five-minute intervals throughout each observation, and (2) the frequency of grooming encounters was tabulated by the age and sex class(es) of groomer and recipient. These data were computed as grooms/hour/possible interacting combination of monkeys. Grooming frequencies were higher in non-feeding situations than when monkeys were feeding. The largest social group had the lowest mean grooming rates, while the smallest group had the highest grooming frequencies. More grooming occurred during the November-to-February mating season than at other periods of the year. Adult females were involved in over 60% of all grooming behavior, juveniles participated in 25% of the grooming, while adult males groomed females, primarily during the mating season, and rarely groomed other males or juveniles. Genealogical relationships, levels of group aggression and the feeding or resting context all influenced the frequency of grooming. This study provides support for the hypothesis that the basic social unit for rhesus macaques consists of a core of adult females with their juvenile and infant progeny.