Conflicts and Coalitions

  • Robin I. M. Dunbar
Part of the Studies in Behavioural Adaptation book series (SBA)


So far, I have focused on the primary biological considerations that relate to mating and the rearing of offspring, together with the strategies that animals use to resolve the problems they encounter at a tactical level. The core of these decisions lies in the fact that primates use social relationships to further their reproductive ends. I now take this one stage further by asking how considerations of maximising fitness might influence the decisions animals make in developing relationships with the other members of their social group. In this chapter, I focus mainly on dominance relationships. In the following chapter, I shall be concerned with the behavioural processes of negotiation that are involved in establishing these relationships.


Rhesus Macaque Young Daughter Dominance Rank Young Sister Hamadryas Baboon 
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  1. 1.
    De Waal and Luttrell (1986) have recently developed a more complex version of this hypothesis. They argue for the pre-eminence of similarity of interests as the primary factor promoting alliance formation. Similarity can arise through membership of the same genetic family or social ‘class’ and similarity in age and/or dominance rank.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Data given by Ehardt and Bernstein (1986) for four episodes of inter-matriline rank reversal in a captive group of rhesus macaques suggest that rank reversals occurred either (1) following the maturation of several juvenile females at a time when all matrilines contained only a single adult female (1976), or (2) in years when a large number of juveniles matured (1982 and twice in 1983). The mean number of juvenile females maturing in years when a reversal occurred was 4.0 (n=3) compared with only 2.3 (n=6) in years when no reversals occurred (Mann-Whitney test, z=1.896, p =0.058 2-tailed). If the two episodes in 1983 count as separate trials, then z=2.207, n1=4, n2=6, p=0.038 1-tailed. This suggests that reversals occur when the existing asymmetries in power are altered by the maturation of immature females.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robin Dunbar 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin I. M. Dunbar
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of LiverpoolUK

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