Maintenance of Multifemale Social Organization in a Group of Nomascus concolor at Wuliang Mountain, Yunnan, China
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Many short-term studies have reported groups of black crested gibbons containing ≥2 adult females (Nomascus concolor). We report the stability of multifemale groups in this species over a period of 6 yr. Our focal group and 2 neighboring groups included 2 breeding females between March 2003 and June 2009. We also habituated 1 multifemale group to observers and present detailed information concerning their social relationships over a 9-mo observation period. We investigated interindividual distances and agonistic behavior among the 5 group members. The spatial relationship between the 3 adult members (1 male, 2 females) formed an equilateral triangle. A subadult male was peripheral to the focal group, while a juvenile male maintained a closer spatial relationship with the adult members. We observed little agonistic behavior among the adult members. The close spatial relationship and lack of high rates of agonistic behavior among females suggest that the benefits of living in a multifemale group were equal to or greater than the costs for both females, given their ecological and social circumstances. The focal group occupied a large home range that was likely to provide sufficient food sources for the 2 females and their offspring. Between March 2003 and June 2009, 1 adult female gave 2 births and the other one gave 1 birth. All individuals in the focal group survived to June 2009. A long-term comparative study focused on females living in multifemale groups and females living in pair-living groups would provide insight into understanding the evolutionary mechanisms of the social system in gibbons.