Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 199–209

Constraints on group size in primates and carnivores: population density and day-range as assays of exploitation competition


  • R.W. Wrangham
    • Department of Anthropology, Peabody MuseumHarvard University
  • J.L. Gittleman
    • Department of ZoologyUniversity of Tennessee
  • C.A. Chapman
    • Department of Anthropology, Peabody MuseumHarvard University

DOI: 10.1007/BF00173778

Cite this article as:
Wrangham, R., Gittleman, J. & Chapman, C. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1993) 32: 199. doi:10.1007/BF00173778


We hypothesise that foraging group size (FGS) and population group size (PGS) in primates and carnivores are related to quantifiable variables indexing the intensity of exploitative competition. Group size is predicted to increase with both food density and travel capabilities, as estimated by the “constraint-free day-range” (DRs), i.e. the day-range of a solitary individual uninfluenced by competition from conspecifics. We test this “exploitation competition” hypothesis among primates and carnivores, using data on populations, species and genera. Food density was indexed by population density. Where DRs could be estimated by regression it was found to be correlated with observed day-range (DRm). DRs was therefore indexed by DRm in all species. Population density and DRm were associated with each other, but in a multiple regression each variable contributed independently to explaining variation in group size. PGS was predicted better than FGS, but regressions involving either measure of group size were significant in all analyses. The multiple regression analyses were validated by the method of linear contrasts, which accounts for possible lack of independence among taxa. We conclude that species differences in group size are influenced by both food density and DRs. This suggests that variation in the intensity of exploitation competition is partly responsible for differences in group size.

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© Springer-Verlag 1993