Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 70, Issue 4, pp 459-466

First online:

The dark side of the red ape: male-mediated lethal female competition in Bornean orangutans

  • Anna M. MarzecAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich Email author 
  • , Julia A. KunzAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich
  • , Sonja FalknerAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich
  • , Sri Suci Utami AtmokoAffiliated withUniversitas Nasional Jakarta
  • , Shauhin E. AlaviAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • , Alysse M. MoldawerAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • , Erin R. VogelAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
  • , Caroline SchuppliAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich
  • , Carel P. van SchaikAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich
    • , Maria A. van NoordwijkAffiliated withAnthropological Institute and Museum, University of Zurich

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Abstract

Female Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii) are mainly solitary and philopatric, leading to adult female relatives sharing adjacent and overlapping home ranges. Females tend to be intolerant of unrelated females, with whom they also may have overlapping home ranges. However, fights that lead to injuries are extremely rare and lethal aggression had never been observed. Here, we report the first case of lethal female-female aggression during over 26,000 h of focal data collected on adult females at Tuanan, Central Kalimantan: A young female, who had recently lost her infant, attacked an old resident female. The interaction’s unique feature was that the attacking female was supported by an unflanged male, who had been in consort with her during the week preceding the attack and was responsible for the lethal injuries to the victim. The victim received protection from a flanged male who was probably attracted to the noise generated by the fight. We conclude that even in a species in which coercion is frequently observed in male-female interactions, female leverage over males can coax males into providing services, such as coalitionary support.

Keywords

Orangutan Lethal aggression Coalitionary attack Female-female competition Male support