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Keywords:

  • social networks;
  • Cebus apella nigritus;
  • spatial proximity;
  • grooming;
  • female–male relationships

Abstract

Primates are notable for the widespread presence of long-term female–male associations which go beyond the mating context. However, little attention has been given to the factors that affect within-species variation in female–male relationships, especially among New World primates. Although detailed accounts of heterosexual relationships in Cebus species are scarce, a few studies have suggested the occurrence of strong associations between adult females and high-ranking males. This study explores affiliative relationships between females and the alpha male during the nonbreeding season in wild tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella nigritus). Affiliative relationships were explored through female–male patterns of spatial proximity and grooming. By adopting a social network approach, we analyzed: (1) whether the alpha male is the preferred male partner for females and, (2) whether variation (if any) in female–alpha male affiliation can be explained through both female individual characteristics and social network metrics. Our results showed that alpha males were the favorite male partner for adult females in the proximity networks, but this did not hold true in the grooming networks. In addition, female–alpha male interaction patterns showed considerable variation, with only some females being strongly associated with the alpha male. Our results suggest that such a variation can be explained by female dominance rank, level of centrality (the quantity and intensity of spatial connection with other females) and prestige (the quantity of grooming received by other females) in female–female social networks. Taken together, these findings highlight two aspects of female–alpha male relationships in tufted capuchin monkeys: the alpha male represents the most socially integrated male in the group, and females with high dominance ranks and high centrality in both proximity and grooming networks show stronger relationships with the alpha male. Am. J. Primatol. 73:812–820, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.