, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 69–86 | Cite as

The socioecology of fission-fusion sociality in Orangutans

  • Carel P. van Schaik


Fission-fusion systems can have the group or the individual as their primary unit. In group-based fission-fusion systems, predation risk reduction is the major benefit to grouping, in the individual-based ones the benefits are likely to be primarily social. Orangutans, like chimpanzees, are examples of an individual-based fission-fusion species. The orangutans inhabiting a Sumatran swamp forest (Suaq Balimbing) are more likely than elsewhere to form travel parties. As elsewhere, the main benefits of grouping are social: mating opportunities, protection from harassment and socialization of infants. Most animals also incur costs, but these are relatively low at Suaq Balimbing due to the high productivity of the swamp. Costs seem to be disproportionately high for females with mid-sized infants, who avoid parties.

Key words

Orangutans Parties Mating Socialization Competition Nursery Groups 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Austad, S. N.;Fischer, K. E. 1991. Mammalian aging, metabolism, and ecology: evidence from the bats and marsupials.J. Gerontol. Biol. Sci., 46: B47–53.Google Scholar
  2. Boesch, C. 1996. Social grouping in Tai chimpanzees. InGreat Ape Societies,McGrew,W. C.;Marchant,L. F.;Nishida,T. (eds.). Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, pp. 101–113.Google Scholar
  3. Chapman, C. A. 1990a. Ecological constraints on group size in three species of Neotropical primates.Folia Primatol., 55: 1–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chapman, C. A. 1990b. Association patterns of spider monkeys: the influence of ecology and sex on social organization.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol., 26: 409–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chapman, C. A.;Wrangham, R. W.;Chapman, L. J. 1995. Ecological constraints on group size: an analysis of spider monkey and chimpanzee subgroups.Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol., 36: 59–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clutton-Brock, T. H.;Parker, G. A. 1995. Punishment in animal societies.Nature, 373: 209–216.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dunbar, R. I. M. 1988.Primate Social Systems, Cornell Univ. Press, Ithaca.Google Scholar
  8. Fox, E. A. 1998. The function of female mate choice in the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelii). Ph.D. thesis. Duke Univ., North Carolina.Google Scholar
  9. Galdikas, B. M. F. 1979. Orangutan adaptation at Tanjung Puting Reserve: mating and ecology. InThe Great Apes,Hamburg,D. A.;McCown,E. R. (eds.), Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, California, pp. 195–232.Google Scholar
  10. Galdikas, B. M. F. 1984. Adult female sociality among wild orangutans at Tanjung Puting Reserve. In:Female Primates: Studies by Women Primatologists,Small,M. F. (ed.), Alan R. Liss, New York, pp. 217–235.Google Scholar
  11. Galdikas, B. M. F. 1985. Orangutan sociality at Tanjung Puting.Amer. J. Primatol., 9: 101–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Galdikas, B. M. F. 1988. Orangutan diet, range, and activity at Tanjung Puting, Central Borneo.Int. J. Primatol. 9: 1–35.Google Scholar
  13. Galdikas, B. M. F.;Teleki, G. 1981. Variations in subsistence activities of female and male pongids: new perspectives on the origins of hominid labor division.Cur. Anthropol., 22: 241–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Janson, C. H. 1992. Evolutionary ecology of primate social structure. In:Evolutionary Ecology and Human Behavior,Smith,E. A.;Winterhalder,B. (eds.), Aldine de Gruyter, New York, pp. 95–130.Google Scholar
  15. MacKinnon, J. 1979. Reproductive behavior in wild orangutan populations. In:The Great Apes,Hamburg,D. A.;McCown,E. R. (eds.), Benjamin/ Cummings, Menlo Park, California, pp. 257–273.Google Scholar
  16. Mitani, J. C. 1985. Mating behaviour of male orangutans in the Kutai Game Reserve, Indonesia.Anim. Behav., 33: 392–402.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mitani, J. C. 1989. Orangutan activity budgets: monthly variations and the effects of body size, parturition, and sociality.Amer. J. Primatol., 18: 87–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mitani, J. C.;Grether, G. F.;Rodman, P. S.;Priatna, D. 1991. Associations among wild orang-utans: sociality, passive aggregations or chance?Anim. Behav., 42: 33–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Noe, R.;Bshary, R. 1997. The formation of red colobus-diana monkey associations under predation pressure from chimpanzees.Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond., B., 264: 253–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Promislow, D. E. L.;Harvey, P. H. 1990. Living fast and dying young: a comparative analysis of lifehistory variation among mammals.J. Zool. Lond., 220: 417–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rijksen, H. D. 1978.A Fieldstudy on Sumatran Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus abelii Lesson 1827). H. Veenman & Zonen, B. V., Wageningen.Google Scholar
  22. Rijksen, H. D.; Meijaard, E.; Yanuar, A.; van Schaik, C. P. in press.Our Vanishing Relative?. The Orangutan at the End of 20th Century? Tropenbos Publ., Wageningen.Google Scholar
  23. Rodman, P. S. 1973. Population composition and adaptive organisation among orang-utans of the Kutai Reserve. In:Comparative Ecology and Behaviour of PrimatesCrook, H. J. (ed.), Academic Press, London, pp. 171–209.Google Scholar
  24. Rodman, P. S. 1979. Individual activity patterns and the solitary nature of orangutans. In:The Great Apes,Hamburg,D. A.;McCown,E. R. (eds.) Benjamin/Cummings, Menlo Park, California, pp. 235–255.Google Scholar
  25. Sokal, R. R.;Rohlf, F. J. 1995.Biometry: The Principles and Practice of Statistics in Biological Research (3rd ed.), W. J. Freeman, San Francisco.Google Scholar
  26. Sugardjito, J. 1983. Selecting nest-sites by Sumatran orang-utans,Pongo pygmaeus abelii in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia,Primates, 24: 467–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Sugardjito, J.;te Boekhorst, I. J. A.;van Hooff, J. A. R. A. M. 1987. Ecological constraints on the grouping of wild orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus) in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia,Int. J. Primatol., 8: 17–41.Google Scholar
  28. Suzuki, A. 1989. Socio-ecological studies of orangutans and primates in Kutai National Park, East Kalimantan in 1988–1989,Kyoto Univ. Overseas Res. Rep. Stu. Asian Non-human Primates, 7: 1–42.Google Scholar
  29. van Schaik, C. P. 1983. Why are diurnal primates living in groups?Behaviour, 87: 120–144.Google Scholar
  30. van Schaik, C. P. in press. Social counterstrategies against infanticide by males in primates and other mammals. In:The Socioecology of Primate males,Kappeler, P. M. (ed.), Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  31. van Schaik, C. P.; Deaner, R. O.; Merrill, M. Y. in press. The conditions for tool use in primates: implications for the evolution of material culture.J. Human Evolution.Google Scholar
  32. van Schaik, C. P.;Fox, E. A.;Sitompul, A. F. 1996. Manufacture and use of tools in wild Sumatran orangutans,Naturwiss., 83: 186–188.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. van Schaik, C. P.;Griffiths, M. 1996. Activity periods of Indonesian rain forest mammals.Biotropica, 28: 105–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. van Schaik, C. P.;van Hooff, J. A. R. A. M. 1996. Towards an understanding of the orangutan's social system. In:Great Ape Societies,McGrew,W. C.;Marchant,L. F.;Nishida,T. (eds.) Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, pp. 3–15.Google Scholar
  35. van Schaik, C. P.;van Noordwijk, M. A. 1985. Interannual variability in fruit abundance and reproductive seasonality in Sumatran long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).Z. Zool., Lond., 206: 533–549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. van Schaik, C. P.;van Noordwijk, M. A. 1986. The hidden costs of sociality: intra-group variation in feeding strategies in Sumatran long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).Behaviour, 99: 296–315.Google Scholar
  37. van Schaik, C. P.;van Noordwijk, M. A. 1988. Scramble and contest in feeding competition among female long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis).Behaviour, 105: 77–98.Google Scholar
  38. Wrangham, R. W. 1986. Ecology and social relationships in two species of chimpanzee. In:Ecological Aspects of Social Evolution: Birds and Mammals,Rubenstein,D. I.;Wrangham,R. W. (eds.), Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, pp. 352–378.Google Scholar
  39. Wrangham, R. W. 1987. Evolution of social structure. In:Primate Societies,Smuts,B. B.;Cheney,D. L.;Seyfarth,R. M.;Wrangham,R. W.;Struhsaker,T. T. (eds.), Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 282–297.Google Scholar
  40. Wrangham, R. W. in press. Reverse sexual dimorphism in primate sociality: a cost of motherhood? In:The Socioecology of Primate Males,Kappeler, P. M. (ed.), Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  41. Wrangham, R. W.;Chapman, C. A.;Clark-Arcadi, A. P.;Isabirye-Basuta, G. 1996. Social ecology of Kanyawara chimpanzees: implications for understanding the costs of great ape groups In:Great Ape Societies,McGrew,W. C.;Marchant,L. F.;Nishida,T. (eds.), Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, pp. 45–57.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carel P. van Schaik
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological Anthropology and AnatomyDuke UniversityNorth CarolinaDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations