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Keywords:

  • social relationships;
  • foraging;
  • estrus;
  • dominance rank

Abstract

The influence of social factors, including social relationship, kinship, estrous cycle stage and hierarchical rank, on choice of a food source was studied in a group of 16 chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) maintained in a large, outdoor compound. The subjects chose among three feeding stations that were spatially separated and located along the periphery of the compound. One feeding station was associated with a preferred food (orange), and two stations contained a less-preferred food (commercial chow or biscuit). A significant positive correlation was found between (a) the frequency with which one animal groomed another and the frequency with which they chose the same station during a given trial and (b) the percent of time that subjects were in close proximity and the frequency with which they chose the same station during a given trial, and this result was mediated by kinship. There was a significant difference in same-station choice by the adult male and by a maximally tumescent female compared to the choice when that female was detumescent. Finally, there was no significant correlation between social rank and the percent of trials during which the station associated with the more highly preferred food type was chosen. This study provided quantitative data supporting postulations that factors such as social relationship, kinship, and estrous cycle stage affect the composition of groupings of chimpanzees at feeding stations, and the results are consistent with field observations.