Animal Cognition

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 133–146 | Cite as

Cooperation in wild Barbary macaques: factors affecting free partner choice

Original Paper


A key aspect of cooperation is partner choice: choosing the best available partner improves the chances of a successful cooperative interaction and decreases the likelihood of being exploited. However, in studies on cooperation subjects are rarely allowed to freely choose their partners. Group-living animals live in a complex social environment where they can choose among several social partners differing in, for example, sex, age, temperament, or dominance status. Our study investigated whether wild Barbary macaques succeed to cooperate using an experimental apparatus, and whether individual and social factors affect their choice of partners and the degree of cooperation. We used the string pulling task that requires two monkeys to manipulate simultaneously a rope in order to receive a food reward. The monkeys were free to interact with the apparatus or not and to choose their partner. The results showed that Barbary macaques are able to pair up with a partner to cooperate using the apparatus. High level of tolerance between monkeys was necessary for the initiation of successful cooperation, while strong social bond positively affected the maintenance of cooperative interactions. Dominance status, sex, age, and temperament of the subjects also affected their choice and performance. These factors thus need to be taken into account in cooperative experiment on animals. Tolerance between social partners is likely to be a prerequisite for the evolution of cooperation.


Cooperation Tolerance Macaque Partner choice Social bond Cognition 



We would like to thank the Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification of Morocco for permission to conduct the research, and Professor Mohamed Qarro (Ecole Nationale Forestière d’Ingénieurs, Morocco) for his support. We are grateful to Jean-Marc Buonomano, Neal Marquez, Barbora Kuběnová, and Laura Martínez Íñigo for assistance in the field. Finally, we would like to thank Sue Wiper and Trentham Monkey Forest for allowing us to pilot the use of the apparatus with the Barbary macaques housed at the park.

Compliance with ethical standards

Our study complies with the ASAB Guidelines for the Treatment of Animals in Behavioural Research and Teaching. All procedures performed for this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the University of Lincoln and of Morocco.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest in the conduct and reporting of this research.

Supplementary material

10071_2015_919_MOESM1_ESM.docx (14 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyUniversity of LincolnLincolnUK

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