, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 521-536
Date: 01 Jun 1995

Dominance competition through affiliation and support in Japanese macaques: An experimental study

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Abstract

It has been proposed that monkeys direct grooming to high-ranking individuals in an attempt to obtain agonistic support in return. But whether these two categories of interactions are causally related has proven difficult to establish. Part of the problem stems from the fact that in stable groups social relationships reflect an equilibrium state and that behaviors need only be performed at low rates and long intervals to maintain the current social structure. In theory, however, if affiliative and supportive interactions are indeed causally related, it should be possible to accentuate their temporal relation, hence their causal dynamics. For example, destabilizing dominance relations can be expected to induce competition for status and force individuals to deploy behavioral tactics for settling new rank relations. We experimentally induced rank reversals in a captive group of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) composed of three matrilines (A-B-C rank order). A reversed C-A-B order composed of three individuals per matriline was maintained for 2 weeks. The results show the close temporal relation among (i) asserting one’s rank, (ii) competing for access to dominants through affiliation and interferences in affiliation, (iii) receiving support from dominants against lower-ranking individuals, and (iv) supporting dominants against subordinates. These findings are compatible with one version of the affiliation-for-support hypothesis, namely that monkeys affiliate with dominants as a way to assert their position in the hierarchy. In a functional perspective, mutual selfishness provides a better explanation than reciprocal altruism because the possibility that both groomers and supporters derive immediate net benefits cannot be excluded.