Grouping Patterns and Competition Among Female Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda
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In mammals, access to mates is probably the most important influence on male reproductive success, whereas foraging efficiency is probably the most important influence on female reproductive success Emlen and Oring (Science 197:215–223, 1977). Male chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) are highly gregarious and form cooperative relationships with other males. In contrast, female social relationships vary within and between populations. Females in most East African populations, e.g., Gombe, Mahale, Kibale-Kanyawara, are less gregarious than males and spend most of their time alone or with only their dependent offspring. Researchers have attributed low female gregariousness to the high potential for feeding competition. I provide the first data on association patterns and agonistic interactions of female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) from the unusually large Ngogo community, Kibale National Park, Uganda. Ngogo females were less gregarious than males, but spent a mean of 64% of their time in association with ≥1 other females and as much time in all-female parties as they did alone. Further, female dyads associated nonrandomly and they formed associative cliques. Association levels within cliques were similar to those among the relatively gregarious West African chimpanzee females at Taï (Pan troglodytes verus) and among bonobo (P. paniscus) females. Agonistic interfemale interactions were extremely rare, and monthly mean party size and the numbers of anestrous females per party do not correlate significantly with fruit availability. Thus, Ngogo females maintained relatively high levels of gregariousness, but avoided detrimental feeding competition by preferentially associating with a small subset of other community females.