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Keywords:

  • resource competition;
  • social behavior;
  • sex differences;
  • spider monkey

Abstract

Competition for resources and the need for cooperation are reported to affect patterns of social interactions and thus the quality of social relationships in primates. Relationships may be described as high quality when both individuals behave in a way that benefits their partner. We investigated the distribution of a wide range of social behaviors across sex partner combinations of adult spider monkeys with specific reference to contested resources. Data were collected from two communities of wild spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis) in the Otoch Ma'ax Yetel Kooh reserve in Yucatan, Mexico. Affiliative behavior was exchanged most frequently between males, and as male–male aggression was rare, male–male social relationships were characterized as high quality. Female–female social relationships were best described as low quality as females showed no preference to be in proximity with other females and female–female affiliative behavior was rare. Relationships between the sexes generally were characterized by high rates of female-directed male aggression, although additional investigation into the effects of kinship and female reproductive state on male–female relationships is required before further conclusions can be drawn. Dyadic and coalitionary female–female aggression was significantly higher than expected in a feeding context, confirming that female spider monkeys primarily compete for access to food. Male–male aggression did not increase significantly when in the presence of females, but males embraced at higher rates when in mixed-sex subgroups. As embraces serve to reduce the likelihood of aggression during tense situations, high rates of male–male embraces in mixed-sex subgroups may mitigate male conflicts over access to females. Am. J. Primatol. 71:21–29, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.