Triadic awareness predicts partner choice in male–infant–male interactions in Barbary macaques
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Social knowledge beyond one’s direct relationships is a key in successfully manoeuvring the social world. Individuals gather information on the quality of social relationships between their group companions, which has been termed triadic awareness. Evidence of the use of triadic awareness in natural contexts is limited mainly to conflict management. Here we investigated triadic awareness in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in the context of bridging interactions defined as male–infant–male interactions whereby a male (initiator, holder) presents an infant to another male (receiver, non-holder) in order to initiate an affiliative interaction with that male. Analyses based on 1263 h of focal observations on ten infants of one wild social group in Morocco supported the hypothesis that males use their knowledge of the relationship between infants and other adult males when choosing a male as a partner for bridging interactions. Specifically, (i) the number of bridging interactions among holder–infant–receiver triads was positively affected by the strength of the infant–receiver relationship and (ii) when two males were available as bridging partners, a male was more likely to be chosen as the receiver the stronger his social relationship with the infant relative to the other available male. This demonstrates that non-human primates establish triadic awareness of temporary infant–male relationships and use it in a naturally occurring affiliative context. Our results contribute to the discussion about the mechanism underlying the acquisition of triadic awareness and the benefits of its usage, and lend support to hypotheses linking social complexity to the evolution of complex cognition.
KeywordsTriadic awareness Social cognition Infant handling Bridging Male–infant–male interactions Barbary macaques
This study was supported by grant 009/2014/P and 04-151/2016/P provided by the Grant Agency of the University of South Bohemia, Christian-Vogel Fond for Field Research of the Gesellschaft für Primatologie and by the scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. We are grateful to the Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification of Morocco for research permission and professor Mohamed Mouna (Institute Scientifique, Rabat, Morocco) and professor Mohamed Quarro (Ecole Nationale Forestière d’Ingénieurs, Salé, Morocco) for their invaluable support and cooperation during the field work. We are thankful for the support and comments of all our collaborators and colleagues that contributed to the realization of the study and preparation of the manuscript. We particularly appreciate advices and support from James Waterman, Josephine Kalbitz, Adeelia Goffe, Andreas Berghänel, Christopher Young, Christina Haunhorst and Stanislav Lhota. Special thank goes to Els van Lavieren, the director of the Moroccan Primate Conservation Foundation, for her help and effort related to the protection of wild populations of Barbary macaques. We also want to thank Dr. Sarah Boysen and two anonymous referees for their thoughtful and insightful comments on the manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
Our study was observational and non-invasive. All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the standards of the International Primate Society for the use of non-human primates in research.
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