Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 67, Issue 6, pp 861–873 | Cite as

Male–female socio-spatial relationships and reproduction in wild chimpanzees

  • Kevin E. LangergraberEmail author
  • John C. Mitani
  • David P. Watts
  • Linda Vigilant
Original Paper


Recent research on primates and other taxa has shown that the relationships individuals form with members of the same sex affect their reproductive success. Evidence showing that intersexual relationships also influence reproduction, however, is more equivocal. Here, we show that male chimpanzees living in an exceptionally large community display long-term tendencies to associate with particular females. These association patterns are likely to arise because individuals of both sexes selectively range in specific areas of the communal territory, with males inheriting the ranging patterns of their mothers. These differentiated male–female socio-spatial relationships involved males of widely varying ranks, and their effect on reproduction is as strong as that of male dominance rank, which in turn is as strong a predictor of reproductive success at Ngogo as in other smaller chimpanzee communities. These results show that male–female socio-spatial relationships can play a large role in chimpanzee male reproductive strategies, although they probably neither weaken nor strengthen the relationship between male dominance rank and reproductive success. Our results linking male–female socio-spatial relationships to reproduction in chimpanzees suggest that the gap between the social and mating systems of humans and their closest living relatives may not be as large as previously thought.


Chimpanzees Pan troglodytes Reproductive success Dominance rank Social relationships Paternity 



We thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Uganda National Council of Science and Technology, and Makere University Biological Field Station for research permission and logistical support; J. Fenton, A. Magoba, G. Mbabazi, L. Ndagizi, A. Tumusiime, and M. Wakefield for sample collection at Ngogo; R. Wrangham and M. Muller for sample collection at Kanyawara; J. Lwanga for logistical support; C. Rowney for lab work; R. Mundry for statistical support; C. Rowney for lab work; and B. Chapais, C. Rowney, J. Silk, and the anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This research was funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the US National Science Foundation (BCS-0215622 and IOB-0516644), the Leakey Foundation, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the National Geographic Society, the Detroit Zoological Institute, the Max Planck Society, Boston University, the University of Michigan, and Yale University.

Ethical standards

The authors declare that this research complies with the current laws of the countries in which it was performed (behavioral observations: Uganda; genetics lab work: Germany).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin E. Langergraber
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • John C. Mitani
    • 3
  • David P. Watts
    • 4
  • Linda Vigilant
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA
  2. 2.Primatology Department, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologyYale UniversityNew HavenUSA

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