, Volume 54, Issue 4, pp 319–324 | Cite as

Perseverance and food sharing among closely affiliated female chimpanzees

  • Timothy M. Eppley
  • Malini Suchak
  • Jen Crick
  • Frans B. M. de Waal
News and Perspectives


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have been frequently observed to share food with one another, with numerous hypotheses proposed to explain why. These often focus on reciprocity exchanges for social benefits (e.g., food for grooming, food for sex, affiliation, kinship, and dominance rank) as well as sharing based on begging and deterring harassment. Although previous studies have shown that each of these hypotheses has a viable basis, they have only examined situations in which males have preferential access to food whereby females are required to obtain the food from males. For example, studies on male chimpanzee food sharing take advantage of successful crop-raids and/or acquisitions of meat from hunting, situations that only leave females access to food controlled by male food possessors. This begs the question how and with whom might a female chimpanzee in sole possession of a high-quality food item choose to share? In two large captive groups of chimpanzees, we examined each of the hypotheses with female food possessors of a high-quality food item and compared these data to a previous study examining food transfers from male chimpanzees. Our results show that alpha females shared significantly more with closely affiliated females displaying perseverance, while kinship and dominance rank had no effect. This positive interaction between long-term affiliation and perseverance shows that individuals with whom the female possessor was significantly affiliated received more food while persevering more than those with neutral or avoidant relationships towards her. Furthermore, females with avoidant relationships persevered far less than others, suggesting that this strategy is not equally available to all individuals. In comparison to the mixed-sex trials, females chose to co-feed with other females more than was observed when the alpha male was sharing food. This research indicates that male and female chimpanzees (as possessors of a desired food item) share food in ways influenced by different factors and strategies.


Food sharing Chimpanzees Affiliation Pan troglodytes Perseverance 



We would like to thank Julia Watzek, Zanna Clay, and Noah Snyder-Mackler for assistance with analyses, and Matthew W. Campbell and Katie Hall for helpful comments throughout the study. We are thankful to the animal care, behavioral and colony management, and veterinary staff of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center Field Station for their support throughout this project. The Yerkes NPRC is fully accredited by the American Association for Accreditation for Laboratory Animal Care. This research was supported by the base grant to the YNPRC by the National Center for Research Resources P51RR165, currently supported by the Office of Research Infrastructure Programs/OD P51OD11132. It was also supported by Emory’s PRISM program (NSF GK12 Award # DGE0536941), SURE program (Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grants number 52006923 and 52005873), and the Living Links Center. The experimental conditions, food presented, and subjects included in this study were all approved by the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) of Emory University.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Timothy M. Eppley
    • 1
  • Malini Suchak
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jen Crick
    • 1
    • 3
  • Frans B. M. de Waal
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Living Links, Yerkes National Primate Research CenterEmory UniversityLawrencevilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologySwarthmore CollegeSwarthmoreUSA

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