• social behavior;
  • Pitheciinae;
  • social evolution;
  • Hinde Index;
  • Suriname


White-faced saki monkeys (Pithecia pithecia) lack most of the behavioral and physical traits typical of primate monogamy [Fuentes, 1999]. In order to determine if social bonds in this species reflect patterns displayed by pair-bonded groups or larger multimale–multifemale groups, we draw on 17 months of data collected on wild white-faced sakis at Brownsberg Nature Park, Suriname. We analyzed within-group social bonds for three habituated groups (one two-adult and two multiadult groups) by measuring grooming, proximity, and approach/leave patterns between adult and subadult group members. We found that both two-adult and multiadult groups showed significantly stronger social bonds between a single male–female dyad within each group (deemed “primary dyads”). In all three groups, primary dyads were composed of the oldest adult male and a breeding female. These pairs had significantly higher levels of grooming than other within-group dyads and were also in close proximity (<1 m) more often than nonprimary dyads. Grooming in primary dyads was nonreciprocal, and consistently biased toward female investment. Grooming patterns in nonprimary dyads varied, but were often more reciprocal. Grooming and proximity of the primary dyad also changed in relation to infant development. Our results suggest that while white-faced sakis do not show behavioral and physical traits typical of monogamy or pair-bonding, social bonds are strongest between a single male–female pair. Pitheciine social systems range from small group monogamy in Callicebus to large multimale–multifemale groups in Chiropotes and Cacajao. As the middle taxon in this platyrrhine radiation, behavioral strategies of white-faced sakis provide a model for how social bonds and affiliation could be influenced by and affect the evolution of larger group size in primates. Am. J. Primatol. 73:1051–1061, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.