Female Competition over Core Areas in Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii, Kibale National Park, Uganda

  • Sonya M. KahlenbergEmail author
  • Melissa Emery Thompson
  • Richard W. Wrangham


Aggression is rare among wild female chimpanzees. However, in the Kanyawara chimpanzee community in Kibale National Park, Uganda, stable use of food-rich core areas is linked to increased reproductive success, suggesting that contest competition might occur over access to the highest-quality ranges. To examine this hypothesis, we studied aggression and dominance relationships among Kanyawara females during a 10-yr period that included the immigration of 5 females into the community. We tested 2 predictions: 1) that female-female aggression should intensify when immigrants enter the community because this is when core area access is determined and 2) that the quality of core areas should reflect relative female dominance relationships. In support of the first prediction, female-female aggression increased 4-fold when new immigrants were in the community, with rates peaking when there were multiple immigrants. This pattern was due primarily to aggression by resident mothers toward immigrants and featured coalitionary aggression, a rare behavior among female chimpanzees. In support of the second prediction, females occupying core areas high in foraging quality ranked high overall and higher than expected for their ages, whereas females occupying low-quality core areas were lower-ranking and ranked lower than expected for their ages. Together, the data indicate that though female aggression does not regularly occur in chimpanzees, contest competition continues to play an important role in determining long-term access to resources, an important correlate of reproductive success.


chimpanzees dispersal dominance intrasexual aggression ranging 



We thank Anne Pusey and Carson Murray for organizing the 2006 IPS symposium on female competition in great apes and for inviting us to participate. The U.S. National Science Foundation (grant no. 0416125), the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the National Geographic Society, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation generously funded research at Kanyawara. The Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda National Council of Science and Technology, and Makerere University Biological Field Station granted research permission. We thank G. Isabirye-Basuta and J. Kasenene for their support. The late J. Barwogeza, J. Sunday, C. Katongole, J. Kyomuhando, F. Mugurusi, the late D. Muhangyi, the late C. Muruuli, S. Musana, J. Musunguzi, D. Sebugwawo, and P. Tuhairwe collected data, with research oversight by K. Duffy, C. Hooven, A. Houle, M. Muller, E. Otali, K. Pieta, and M. Wilson. Comments from 2 anonymous reviewers improved the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonya M. Kahlenberg
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Melissa Emery Thompson
    • 1
    • 3
  • Richard W. Wrangham
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyBates CollegeLewistonUSA
  3. 3.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of New MexicoAlbuquerqueUSA

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