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12 Great Ape Social Systems

  • Angela Meder
Reference work entry

Abstract

For decades, the social systems of the great ape species were described as being fundamentally different, but long-term field studies have questioned this idea. Although orangutans seem to be less social than the African apes, they have the ability to socialize and spend much time in contact with conspecifics if the ecological conditions permit. Although the social behavior of chimpanzees and bonobos seems very different, their social structure is similar. The social systems of all great apes have common traits. They are characterized by weak ties, female transfer is common, they have a tendency toward fission–fusion grouping and a complex social network, females lack sharply defined dominance relations, and intrasexual bonds among nonkin can be relatively strong. There is remarkable intraspecific variability in social organization and structure; differences in ecological conditions seem to be very important in determining this. Especially frugivory requires a mobile and flexible social system. Compared to the great apes, humans show an even greater variability.

Keywords

Home Range Party Size Mountain Gorilla Estrous Female Female Relationship 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am very grateful to Colin Groves who improved the manuscript in many respects.

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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg New York 2007

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  • Angela Meder

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