International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 375–385 | Cite as

Kinship Bonds Are Not Necessary for Maintaining Matrilineal Rank in Captive Japanese Macaques

  • Bernard Chapais
  • Claude-Eric G. St-Pierre


Although kinship is of central importance in matrilineal (nepotistic) dominance systems, various lines of evidence indicate that its role has probably been overestimated. For example, alliances among nonkin, patterned on the basis of dominance per se, contribute to the maintenance of rank and to the remarkable stability of matrilineal rank orders. But because kin and nonkin alliances exert their stabilizing effects on the rank order simultaneously, the effect of nonkin alliances per se is unknown. We tested whether nonkin alliances are sufficient to ensure the stability of matrilineal rank relations in a laboratory-housed group of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). We first created a group composed of two female subgroups: (1) a subordinate subgroup of close kin known to constitute an effective revolutionary alliance and (2) a dominant subgroup composed mostly of nonkin and distant kin known to support each other against lower-ranking females. In the course of 12 consecutive experimental manipulations, we reduced progressively the relative power of the dominant subgroup by manipulating its size and age composition. The members of the dominant subgroup maintained their rank in all experimental situations except when alone. Thus, nonkin alliances remained effective up to extremely pronounced levels of power imbalance. These results suggest that the remarkable stability of matrilineal rank orders is not conditional upon the existence of nepotistic alliances and strong matrilines of close kin.

primates Japanese macaques nepotism alliances coalitions dominance 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Chapais
    • 1
  • Claude-Eric G. St-Pierre
    • 1
  1. 1.Département d'anthropologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada

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