The importance of social play network for infant or juvenile wild chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania


  • Masaki Shimada,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Animal Sciences, Teikyo University of Science, Uenohara, Japan
    • Correspondence to: Masaki Shimada, Department of Animal Sciences, Teikyo University of Science, 2525 Yatsusawa, Uenohara, Yamanashi 409-0193, Japan. E-mail:

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  • Cédric Sueur

    1. Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien, Université de Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France
    2. Département Ecologie, Physiologie et Ethologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Strasbourg, France
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Along with social grooming and food sharing, social play is considered to be an affiliative interaction among wild chimpanzees. However, infant, juvenile, and adolescent animals engage in social play more frequently than adult animals, while other affiliative interactions occur more commonly between adults. We studied the social play of well-habituated and individually identified wild chimpanzees of the M group in Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania over two research periods in 2010 and 2011 (21 and 17 observation days, respectively). In both periods, most members of the M group, including adolescents and adults, took part in social play at least once. The degree centralities of the play network in infants, juveniles, and adolescents were significantly higher than those seen in adults. There was a significant and positive correlation between the total number of participations in social play and the degree centrality of play networks. Partial play networks and partial association networks consisting of individuals in same-age categories were significantly and positively correlated in infants and juveniles, although they were not correlated in adolescents or adults. These results suggest that infants, juveniles and adolescents who played frequently were more central in the group, whilst the adults who played infrequently were more peripheral. In addition, the overall structure of the social play network was stable over time. The frequency of participation in social play positively contributed to the development of affiliative social relationships within the chimpanzee group during the infant or juvenile period, but did not have the same effect during the adolescent and adult period. The social play network may allow individuals to develop the social techniques necessary to acquire a central position in a society and enable them to develop affiliative relationships during the infant or juvenile period. Am. J. Primatol. 76:1025–1036, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.