International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 1096–1109

Fission–Fusion Behavior in Yunnan Snub-Nosed Monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) in Yunnan, China


DOI: 10.1007/s10764-012-9586-3

Cite this article as:
Ren, B., Li, D., Garber, P.A. et al. Int J Primatol (2012) 33: 1096. doi:10.1007/s10764-012-9586-3


Several species of mammals live in relatively large social groups that temporarily fission or subgroup in response to changes in food availability, predation risk, foraging strategies, and mating competition. Although the dynamics of subgrouping are not well understood, evidence of facultative fission–fusion behavior in species that generally exhibit a highly cohesive group structure may help to clarify the set of ecological and social factors that constrain or affect group size in primates. We here examined patterns of subgrouping in Yunnan snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus bieti) inhabiting the Baimaxueshan National Nature Reserve in Yunnan, China. Rhinopithecus bieti lives in a large multilevel society consisting of 6–41 one-male, multifemale units (OMUs) and one all-male unit (AMU). Over a 5-yr period from 2003 through 2008, we tracked a group of >450 Rhinopithecus bieti. We recorded the location in the group’s home range where fission and fusion events occurred, the size and number of subgroups, days spent in subgroups, and food availability, and monitored predator sightings. The results indicate that the focal group underwent12 group fission events, all of which occurred between mid-June and July, and all in the same area of the group’s range. During these fissioning events, the AMU also showed subgrouping behavior. In all cases, the presence of bamboo shoots, an important seasonal component of the snub-nosed monkey diet, appeared to trigger subgrouping behavior. The subgroups reunited in other parts of their range after a period of 2–11 d. We found no evidence that the presence of predators had a direct affect on subgrouping behavior in Rhinopithecus bieti, as proposed in previous studies.


Fission–fusion behaviorFoodGroup sizeRanging patternsYunnan snub-nosed monkeys

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Baoping Ren
    • 1
  • Dayong Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Paul A. Garber
    • 3
  • Ming Li
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of life SciencesChina West Normal UniversityNanchongChina
  3. 3.Department of Anthropology Program in Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA