International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 34, Issue 3, pp 571–584 | Cite as

The Absence of Grooming for Rank-Related Benefits in Female Assamese Macaques (Macaca assamensis)

  • Sally MacdonaldEmail author
  • Oliver Schülke
  • Julia Ostner


Seyfarth’s model of social grooming proposes that by grooming females higher ranking than themselves, females can gain access to important rank-related benefits, such as agonistic support. This, in turn, produces a distinctive pattern of grooming in which females direct their grooming up the female dominance hierarchy and compete for access to the highest ranking individuals. We aimed to test to what extent the grooming behavior of female Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis) fits the assumptions and predictions of Seyfarth’s model. During two 1-yr sampling periods (October 2007–September 2008, May 2010–April 2011) we collected >2100 focal hours of data from a single wild group in their natural habitat at Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand. Subjects included all adult female group members (N = 12 in 2007/8; N = 15 in 2010/11). We collected detailed data on grooming interactions, approaches, and departures as well as all aggressive and submissive behaviors between all subjects. We found no evidence that grooming was exchanged for rank-related benefits. In line with this we found no evidence that the grooming of female Assamese macaques fits the pattern predicted by Seyfarth’s model. These results are surprising given that such deviations from Seyfarth’s model are relatively rare among macaques. We propose that our findings are best explained as a lack of a need for rank-related benefits by females in this group.


Grooming Macaca assamensis Rank-related benefits Seyfarth’s model 



We thank the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) for permission (No. 0004.3/3618; 0002.3/2647) to conduct this study. All data collection adhered to the legal requirements of Thailand. We thank J. Prabnasuk, K. Nitaya, M. Kumsuk, and K. Kreetiyutanont (Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary) for their cooperation and permission to conduct this research. We thank A. Koenig and C. Borries (Stony Brook University), who developed the field site at Huai Mai Sot Yai. We also thank N. Bhumpakphan, W. Eiadthong (Kasetsart University), and W. Brockelman (Mahidol University). We thank all members of team macaque, N. Juntuch, N. Ponganan, D. Bootros, A. Chunchaen, S. Jomhlotwong, T. Kilawit, T. Wisate, P. Saisawatdikul, and especially M. Swagemakers for their help in the field. We also thank W. Nuagchiyo, M. Heesen and S. Rogahn for their help with data collection. We thank B. Tiddi and C. Neumann for helpful discussions and J. Duboscq, F. Nowak, J. Setchell, an anonymous reviewer, and especially L. Barrett for very helpful comments on this manuscript. Support was provided by the Max Planck Society, the National Geographic Society, and the German Initiative of Excellence to the University of Göttingen.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally Macdonald
    • 1
    Email author
  • Oliver Schülke
    • 2
  • Julia Ostner
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Social Evolution Group, Courant Research Centre Evolution of Social BehaviourGeorg-August UniversityGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Courant Research Centre Evolution of Social BehaviourGeorg-August UniversityGöttingenGermany

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