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Keywords:

  • gorilla;
  • social relationships;
  • agonistic behavior

Abstract

Within-group female relationships, and relationships between females and adult males have not been described for wild western lowland gorillas. New data are presented here from Mbeli Bai in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, Republic of Congo. Nine groups were observed over a continuous 2-year period, and affiliative and agonistic interactions, as well as time spent by females and adult males in proximity to each other were recorded. Affiliative behavior was extremely rare in the bai, and measures of proximity between individuals were inconclusive because of the small sample sizes. Rates of agonistic interaction among females were highly variable between groups. The majority of agonistic interactions were undecided, and the supplant rate was low. Evidence for an agonistic dominance hierarchy is weak. The data do not support hypotheses that increased frugivory in western lowland gorillas raises levels of within-group contest competition; however, the need for intersite comparisons is stressed. In contrast, rates of agonistic behavior between females and silverback males were higher and more consistent between groups. Agonistic relationships between males and females conformed with patterns seen in mountain gorillas, where male protection from intraspecific aggression is important. The benefit females gain by forming long-term cooperative alliances appears to be small, and is likely outweighed by reproductive advantages associated with male protection. Am. J. Primatol. 64:233–246, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.