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Keywords:

  • aggression;
  • kinship;
  • social cohesion

Abstract

Captive studies can make a unique contribution to primate socioecology by documenting species-typical social dispositions under controlled conditions. Recent theories seek to connect the dominance relationships, group cohesiveness, and feeding ecology of primates. The present study explores the first two aspects by comparing the social organization of rhesus (Macaca mulatta) and stumptail monkeys (M. arctoides). Data were collected over a period of eight years, with five different methods, on three well-established captive groups in identical environments. The groups were found to share one characteristic: a clear-cut, linear formal dominance hierarchy as expressed in teeth-baring displays. The two main study groups (one of each species) differed significantly, however, with respect to nine of eleven behavioral measures. In addition to a previously reported higher frequency of reconciliation in the stumptail group, this group showed (1) more frequent but less severe aggressive behavior, (2) greater symmetry of contests, (3) greater social tolerance, (4) more nonagonistic approaches, and (5) more allogrooming. The differences can be summarized as a contrast in dominance “style,” with the stumptails having a more relaxed style and placing greater emphasis on social cohesion than the rhesus monkeys. An egalitarian attitude was also reflected in approach behavior: contacts in the rhesus group were mostly initiated by dominants, whereas contacts in the stumptail group were initiated independent of rank. Comparisons with a second rhesus group, and with published reports, suggest that while some of the observed differences are probably representative of the two species, considerable intraspecific variation does exist, and a more comprehensive program of comparative studies is needed.