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Keywords:

  • male parenting;
  • kin selection;
  • alliance building;
  • mating effort;
  • Gorilla beringei

Abstract

We examined the pattern and possible functions of social interactions between adult males and immatures in three free-ranging, multi-male groups of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei). Previous studies conducted during the 1970s when groups contained one to three adult males concluded that male–immature relationships were likely to be a form of low-cost paternal investment [Stewart, Mountain gorillas: three decades of research at Karisoke. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001]. We evaluated whether this hypothesis still held in groups containing six to nine adult males, or if male–immature relationships might serve other functions (e.g. mating effort, kin selection, or alliance building). Overall, we found that immatures spent the most time near, and interacted most with, the alpha silverback. These behaviors peaked during the period when infants were still quite vulnerable but increasing their independence from their mothers. Such findings suggest that parenting effort remains the primary function of male–immature relationships; however, there is some evidence for the mating effort hypothesis as well. Am. J. Primatol. 73:356–365, 2011. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.