Dominance and Immunity in Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)


Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Science, The University of Tokyo, Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113, Japan.


The study reported here examined the effect of dominance status on serum immunoglobulin (IgG and IgM) levels in chimpanzees living in five captive colonies. Blood samples were collected from each individual twice, and agonistic and grooming interactions were observed. After initial group observations, members of four of the five groups were caged singly. Thereafter blood samples were again taken. Both IgG and IgM levels of the animals living in groups were significantly negatively correlated with their dominance status in all five groups. The higher-ranked chimpanzees were likely to show lower levels of IgG and IgM. No such consistent correlation was found between individual Ig levels and frequency of aggressive behaviour or grooming. On transfer to isolated conditions, Ig levels of the chimpanzees did not correlate with their previous dominance status in the groups. Being of high rank is a biological cost for colony-living chimpanzees with regard to immunity levels.