Absence of strongly kin-preferential behavior by adult female sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys)


  • Dr. Carolyn L. Ehardt

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, and Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, Emory University Atlanta, GA
    • Department of Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602
    Search for more papers by this author


The objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that kin-preferential behavior would be present in sooty mangabeys (Cercocebus atys), a species taxonomically close to baboons and macaques. The affiliative behavior of the adult female members of a large captive group of these mangabeys was analyzed to test this prediction. These females groomed, were approached by, were in proximity to, and were in contact with their kin significantly more than expected, but only when all kin were included in the analysis. Removal of only the mother-infant (< 1 year) dyadic interactions removed all significant kin effects. Kin-preferential behavior was also absent in affiliative interactions among the adult females as a class. Affiliation between mothers and offspring significantly exceeded that for all other kinship categories (such as siblings, etc.), and affiliation with kin other than offspring did not differ from that with nonkin adults. In their interactions with nonkin, the adult females showed some preference (duration of grooming) for those adult females of similar age, an effect predicted by the intensity of interaction among members of the same age cohort during development. These similar-aged females may also be paternally related. In comparing these results with the existing literature on kin-preferential behavior, two conclusions may be reached: (1) age and degree of kinship are primary factors that must be considered in order to avoid the existing overgeneralization of the importance of kinship in primate social organization, and (2) the role and importance of affiliative behavior in kin-selection theory should perhaps be re-examined in light of questions raised by this study.