Post-conflict Social Events in Wild Mountain Gorillas (Mammalia, Hominoidea). I. Social Interactions between Opponents


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Researchers have documented elevated rates of affinitive interaction between opponents shortly after aggressive conflicts, or reconciliation, in many primate species. Reconciliation may ameliorate the immediate negative effects of aggression by reducing the chance of further aggression between opponents and thus reducing tension, and may avert or repair damage to long-term social relationships important to the animals' fitness. Data on post-conflict interactions between opponents in two groups of wild mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) fail to show reconciliation after conflicts between females, between males, or between immatures, but females seem to commonly reconcile themselves with males after receipt of male aggression. Females and subordinate males often avoid same-sex opponents after conflicts. Females commonly retaliate against female aggressors, and post-conflict rates of aggression between females are higher than baseline levels. Females may not need to achieve reconciliation with each other because relationships between co-resident relatives are resiliant, while those between non-relatives are mostly neutral to antagonistic. Males are, however, important social partners and protectors of females, and female transfer is common. Thus, the results strongly support the ‘important relationships’ hypothesis for the function of reconciliation.