Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 64, Issue 2, pp 247–255 | Cite as

Sex differences in the movement patterns of free-ranging chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii): foraging and border checking

  • Lucy A. Bates
  • Richard W. ByrneEmail author
Original Paper


Most social primates live in cohesive groups, so travel paths inevitably reflect compromise: decision processes of individuals are obscured. The fission–fusion social organisation of the chimpanzee, however, allows an individual's movements to be investigated independently. We followed 15 chimpanzees (eight male and seven female) through the relatively flat forest of Budongo, Uganda, plotting the path of each individual over periods of 1–3 days. Chimpanzee movement was parsed into phases ending with halts of more than 20 min, during which individuals fed, rested or engaged in social activities. Males, lactating or pregnant females and sexually receptive females all travelled similar average distances between halts, at similar speeds and along similarly direct beeline paths. Compared to lactating or pregnant females, males did travel for a significantly longer time each day and halted more often, but the most striking sex differences appeared in the organisation of movement phases into a day's path. After a halt, males tended to continue in the same direction as before. Lactating or pregnant females showed no such strategy and often retraced the preceding phase, returning to previously visited food patches. We suggest that female chimpanzee movements approximate an optimal solution to feeding requirements, whereas the paths of males allow integration of foraging with territorial defence. The ‘continually moving forwards’ strategy of males enables them to monitor their territory boundaries—border checking—whilst foraging, generally avoiding the explicit boundary patrols observed at other chimpanzee study sites.


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytesRange use Sex differences Fission–fusion Individual movement patterns Border checking 



We thank all the staff of the Budongo Forest Project, especially Kakura James, Fred Babweteera and Vernon Reynolds. For permission to work in Uganda, we thank the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, the President's Office, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Uganda Forest Authority. This research was supported by a studentship from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (01/A1/S/07457). The paper has benefited from helpful comments from two anonymous referees.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Social Learning and Cognitive Evolution, School of PsychologyUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsScotland

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