The cost of defeat: Capuchin groups travel further, faster and later after losing conflicts with neighbors


  • Margaret C. Crofoot

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Migration and Immuno-ecology, Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell, Germany
    2. Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ
    • Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Balboa, Ancón, Republic of Panamá
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Correspondence to: Margaret C. Crofoot, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Apartado Postal 0843-03092, Panamá, República de Panamá. E-mail:


Although competition between social groups is central to hypotheses about the evolution of human social organization, competitive interactions among group-mates are thought to play a more dominant role in shaping the behavior and ecology of other primate species. However, few studies have directly tested the impact of intergroup conflicts in non-human primates. What is the cost of defeat? To address this question, the movements of six neighboring white-faced capuchin (Cebus capucinus) social groups living on Barro Colorado Island, Panama were tracked simultaneously using an Automated Radio Telemetry System (ARTS), for a period of six months. Groups moved 13% (441 m) further on days they lost interactions compared with days they won interactions. To cover these larger distances, they traveled faster, stopped less frequently, and remained active later in the evening. Defeat also caused groups to alter their patterns of space use. Losing groups had straighter travel paths than winning groups, larger net displacements and were more likely to change their sleeping site. These results demonstrate that losing groups pay increased travel costs and suggest that they forage in low-quality areas. They provide some of the first direct evidence that intergroup conflicts have important energetic consequences for members of competitively unsuccessful primate social groups. A better understanding of how intergroup competition impacts patterns of individual fitness is thus needed to clarify the role that this group-level process plays in shaping the evolution of human- and non-human primate behavior. Am J Phys Anthropol 152:79–85, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.