Do males bond? A study of male-male relationships in Nicobar long-tailed macaques Macaca fascicularis umbrosus

Abstract

In primates, males compete for a mate, which is a non-sharable resource. This makes the conditions less conducive for males to have stable relationships. One such special kind of relationship is a bond where the interactions are reciprocated, equitable and differentiated. Bonds in macaque societies are based on the degree of within-group contest competition for mates which is dependent on the synchronization of female fertile phase and reliability of fertility signals. Species of the Fascicularis group, including Nicobar subspecies, show intermediate reliability in the signals with mild peaks, and studies have shown reciprocity but no differentiation. We conducted a study on a group of wild Nicobar long-tailed macaques Macaca fascicularis umbrosus to understand the existing patterns of male-male relationships. We examined whether there is reciprocity in affiliation among the individuals and whether the rate of affiliation is balanced. We also measured the dominance linearity and steepness in the group to understand the monopolizability of females. We used social network analysis to understand whether the relations are differentiated based on hierarchical position and whether the high-ranking individuals are the most central individuals in the distribution of grooming in the group. We found that there is reciprocity among the males although that is not equitable. There was no rank-related differentiation of affiliation among the males of the group. Instead, the identities of individuals influenced affiliation patterns. Our results correspond to the existent strong relationships but lack of social bond otherwise found in the Fascicularis group of macaques.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Department of Science and Technology, India, for the financial assistance to HNK (Grant No.SR/SO/AS-49/2011), and Science and Engineering Research Board, India, for the award of SERB Distinguished Fellowship to MS (Grant No. SB/DF-003/2019), for carrying out the project. We sincerely thank Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, for granting permission to carry out the study (Permit No. CWLW/WL/134/566) and Assistant Commissioner, Andaman and Nicobar Administration for providing the necessary permits to give access to the tribal areas. We sincerely express our gratitude the Andaman and Nicobar Forest Department, especially the Nicobar division along with the Nicobar Administration for logistical support. We acknowledge the assistance and logistical support from local people of Campbell Bay. We thank Dr PA Azeez, former Director and Dr Kankar, Director, Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Coimbatore, for their valuable support. PSM would also like to thank Dr Tha Thayumanavan, Associate Professor, Department of Biotechnology, Kalaignarkarunanidhi Institute of Technology, Coimbatore, for his assistance during the work. We would especially like to pay our sincere gratitude to Dr D Leiva, Dr H de Vries, Dr V Schmidt and Dr CK Hemelrijk for their valuable guidance in the data analysis. We would like to thank Ms Annesa Mishra for her help with the sociograms.

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Correspondence to Mewa Singh.

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Corresponding editor: BJ Rao

Communicated by BJ RAO.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Description of the affiliative behaviours:

Muzzle contact Muzzle contact is defined as touching the muzzle of another individual by its own muzzle. This behaviour is irrespective of the sex of the individuals
Genital touch This behaviour is defined as touching or holding the penis of another male by an individual. This is an exclusive behaviour between males
Silent bared-teeth display In this behaviour, an individual retracts its lips upwards exposing its teeth to the other individual as a sign of affiliation. This behaviour is also irrespective of the sex of the individuals
Sitting in contact This involves the individuals sitting in close proximity to each other with parts of their bodies touching each other. Although this behaviour is mostly seen among the females, males have been observed to sit in close proximity as well
Inspection This behaviour involves touching and sniffing the genitals of another individual for mating. This behaviour usually involves a male touching and sniffing the sexual swellings of a female
Embrace Embracing is defined as wrapping the forelimbs around another individual while facing it. This behaviour is prevalent in both the sexes
Active touch and Passive touch Active touch involves an individual to intentionally touch another individual using any part of the body. Where, passive touch involves accidental touch by one individual to the other using any part of the body
Lip-smacking Lip-smacking involves pursing of lips with the lower jaw moving up and down in rhythm producing a soft sound audible only at short distances (Micheletta et al. 2012)

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Mishra, P.S., Pal, A., Velankar, A.D. et al. Do males bond? A study of male-male relationships in Nicobar long-tailed macaques Macaca fascicularis umbrosus. J Biosci 45, 22 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12038-020-9995-y

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Keywords

  • Great Nicobar Island
  • Macaca fascicularis umbrosus
  • male–male relationships
  • mate competition