Wild chimpanzees can perform social grooming and social play behaviors simultaneously

  • 384 Accesses

  • 1 Citations


Reliable evidence was obtained of the simultaneous performance of social grooming and social play behaviors by individuals among wild chimpanzees of the M group in Mahale Mountains National Park. I observed three cases of this performance: in an old female, a young female, and an adult male. While the agent was grooming the back of an adult bimanually, an infant or a juvenile approached the agent. The agent then started playing with the infant/juvenile using only the right hand, while simultaneously grooming the back of the adult with the left hand. In one case, an old female continued the simultaneous performance for about 1 min. Such performances probably occur at low frequency because they are not often required. The similarity in the neurobiological bases and the functions of social grooming and social play behaviors, both of which include repetitive contact with the body of another individual, may facilitate their simultaneous performance.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  1. Altmann J (1974) Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–267

  2. Boccia ML, Reite M, Laudenslager M (1989) On the physiology of grooming in a pigtail macaque. Physiol Behav 45(3):667–670

  3. Burghardt GM (2005) The genesis of animal play: testing the limits. MIT Press, Cambridge

  4. Corp N, Byrne RW (2002) The ontogeny of manual skill in wild chimpanzees: evidence from feeding on the fruit of Saba florida. Behaviour 139:137–168

  5. Dunbar RIM (1991) Functional significance of social grooming in primates. Folia Primatol 57:121–131

  6. Dunbar RIM (2010) The social role of touch in humans and primates: behavioural function and neurobiological mechanisms. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 34:260–268

  7. Goodall J (1986) The Chimpanzees of Gombe. Harvard University Press, Cambridge

  8. Graves FC, Wallen K, Mestripieri D (2002) Opioids and attachment in rhesus macaque abusive mothers. Behav Neurosci 116:489–493

  9. Hopkins WD, Russell JL, Remkus M, Freeman H, Schapiro SJ (2007) Handedness and grooming in Pan troglodytes: comparative analysis between findings in captive and wild individuals. Int J Primatol 28:1315–1326

  10. Marchant LF, McGrew WC (1996) Laterality of limb function in wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park: comprehensive study of spontaneous activities. J Hum Evol 30:427–443

  11. Merrick NJ (1977) Social grooming and play behavior of a captive group of chimpanzees. Primates 18:215–224

  12. Nishida T (1990) The chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains: sexual and life history strategies. University of Tokyo Press, Tokyo

  13. Nishida T (2012) Chimpanzees of the lakeshore. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

  14. Nishida T, Zamma K, Matsusaka T, Inaba A, McGrew WC (2010) Chimpanzee behavior in the wild: an audio-visual encyclopedia. Springer, Tokyo

  15. Palagi E, Cordoni G, Borgognini Tarli SM (2004) Immediate and delayed benefits of play behaviour: new evidence from chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Ethology 110(12):949–962

  16. Savage-Rumbaugh S (1991) Multi-tasking: the Pan-human rubicon. Semin Neurosci 3(5):417–422

  17. Schino G, Scucchi S, Maestripieri D, Turillazzi PG (1988) Allogrooming as a tension-reduction mechanism: a behavioral approach. Am J Primatol 16(1):43–50

  18. Shimada M (2013) Dynamics of the temporal structures of playing clusters and cliques among wild chimpanzees in Mahale Mountains National Park. Primates 54 (3): online first

  19. Terry RL (1970) Primate grooming as a tension reduction mechanism. J Psychol Interdiscip Appl 76(1):129–136

  20. Trezza V, Baarendse PJJ, Vanderschuren LJMJ (2010) The pleasures of play: pharmacological insights into social reward mechanisms. Trends Pharmacol Sci 31(10):463–469

  21. Vanderschuren LJMJ (2010) How the brain makes play fun. Am J Play 2(3):315–337

  22. Zamma K (2011) Frequency of removal movements during social versus self-grooming among wild chimpanzees. Primates 52(4):323–328

Download references


I thank the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (TAWIRI), Mahale Mountains National Park (MMNP), and Mahale Mountains Wildlife Research Centre (MMWRC) for permission to do research in Mahale. This study was funded by a MEXT Grant-in-Aid (KAKENHI) (21820064, 24720399 to Shimada M, and 19255008 to the late Nishida T).

Author information

Correspondence to Masaki Shimada.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 24226 kb)

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 24226 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Shimada, M. Wild chimpanzees can perform social grooming and social play behaviors simultaneously. Primates 54, 315–317 (2013) doi:10.1007/s10329-013-0369-z

Download citation


  • Social grooming
  • Social play
  • Multitasking
  • Chimpanzee
  • Mahale Mountains National Park