Relation of Intergroup Variation in Allogrooming to Group Social Structure and Ectoparasite Loads in Red Howlers (Alouatta seniculus)
We compare the allogrooming behavior of 5 troops (average size = 8.2) of red howlers (Alouatta seniculus) from the Venezuelan Llanos with that of other A. seniculus and Alouatta spp. of the genus. In 126.9 observation hr, we recorded 118 allogrooming events, with an average bout length of 109 sec. Females groomed more frequently than males did, but as groomees there is no significant differences between sexes. Adult males groomed adult females mostly in a sexual context (before copulation). Allogrooming rates differ significantly among groups. There are also significant differences among members of the same troop both as groomers and groomees, which we explain in the context of the social behavior and history of each troop. There is no significant correlation between weight of the groomee and duration of the grooming bout. However, the examination of grooming rates and ectoparasite load suggests that allogrooming may have hygienic consequences. Differences in allogrooming rates among species of Alouatta are related to differences in group kin structure and patterns of female competition, in particular, coalition formation. We conclude that the social structure and the degree of relatedness among individuals within a group (or among individuals in a population in interpopulation comparisons) is a more important determinant of allogrooming rate than body size or group size. Our results emphasize the importance of considering intergroup and interpopulational variation in behavior.
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