, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 23–31 | Cite as

The evolution of “egalitarian” and “despotic” social systems among macaques

  • Shuichi Matsumura


Recent studies of captive macaques have revealed considerable inter-species differences in dominance styles among females. In “egalitarian” species such as stumptail (Macaca arctoides) or tonkean macaques (M. tonkeana), social interactions are more symmetrical and less kin-biased than in “despotic” species such as Japanese (M. fuscata) or rhesus macaques (M. mulatta). Field observations of moor macaques (M. maurus), close relatives of tonkean macaques, suggest that tolerance during feeding characterizes their egalitarian dominance style in the natural habitat. Although it has been proposed that communal defense against other groups may be the main selective force in the evolution of egalitarian dominance style among females, few field data support this prediction. A game theory analysis showed that both an “egalitarian” strategy and a “despotic” strategy are possible evolutionarily stable strategies (ESS) under certain conditions. The difference in dominance styles might reflect the difference in ESS. This means that an egalitarian dominance style can emerge without strong between-group contest competition. A phylogenetic comparison among macaques suggests that despotic dominance styles very likely evolved from egalitarian dominance styles. In the future, primate socioecological studies should pay more attention to the evolutionary history of each species.

Key Words

Moor macaques Macaca maurus Macaques Dominance styles Game theory Phylogeny 


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shuichi Matsumura
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Research InstituteKyoto UniversityInuyama, AichiJapan

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