, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 377–384 | Cite as

The influence of kinship and dominance hierarchy on grooming partner choice in free-ranging Macaca mulatta brevicaudus

  • Cheng-Feng Wu
  • Zhi-Jie Liao
  • Cedric Sueur
  • John Chih Mun Sha
  • Jie Zhang
  • Peng ZhangEmail author
Original Article


In group-living animals, individuals do not interact uniformly with their conspecifics. Among primates, such heterogeneity in partner choice can be discerned from affiliative grooming patterns. While the preference for selecting close kin as grooming partners is ubiquitous across the primate order, the selection of higher-ranking non-kin individuals as grooming partners is less common. We studied a group of provisioned rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta brevicaudus) on Hainan Island, China, to examine rank-related benefits of grooming exchanges and the influence of kin relationships. We tested four hypotheses based on Seyfarth’s model: (1) there will be kin preference in grooming relationships; (2) grooming between non-kin individuals will be directed up the dominance rank; (3) grooming between non-kin individuals will reduce aggression from higher-ranking ones; and (4) non-kin individuals will spend more time grooming with adjacent ranked ones. We found that grooming relationships between kin individuals were stronger than those between non-kin individuals. For non-kin relationships, lower-ranking individuals received less aggression from higher-ranking ones through grooming; a benefit they could not derive through grooming exchanges with individuals related by kinship. Individuals spent more time grooming adjacent higher-ranking non-kin individuals and higher-ranking individuals also received more grooming from non-kin individuals. Our results supported Seyfarth’s model for predicting partner choice between non-kin individuals. For relationships between kin individuals, we found results that were not consistent with prediction for the exchanges of aggression and grooming, indicating the importance to control for the influence of kinship in future studies.


Aggression Dominance rank Kin preference Rhesus macaque Seyfarth’s model 



This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China 31470456, 31772472, 31711540021), Research Project of Guangzhou Zoo (2018-01). We are grateful to the Nanwan Monkey Park and Nanwan Nature Reserve for Rhesus Macaque for granting permission and support to carry out this research. We thank Qi-xuan Hong, Xiao-chan Yan, and Bo-jun Liu for their assistance in the field. We thank Hang Ning and Christy Lee Ward for their help in English proofreading. We thank all members of the Anthropology Department and School of Life Sciences in Sun Yat-sen University, China for their support.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Martin Hall, Anthropology Department, School of Sociology and AnthropologySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  2. 2.Provincial Key Laboratory of Human Evolution and ArchaeometrySun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.College of Life SciencesSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouChina
  4. 4.Université de Strasbourg, CNRS, IPHC, UMR 7178StrasbourgFrance
  5. 5.Nanwan Monkey IsletLingshui TownChina

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