Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour

Göttingen, Germany

Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour

Göttingen, Germany

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Maciej P.,German Primate Center | Maciej P.,Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour | Patzelt A.,German Primate Center | Patzelt A.,Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour | And 5 more authors.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology | Year: 2013

Keeping track of social interactions among conspecifics is a driving force for the evolution of social cognition. How social cognition, such as social knowledge, ties in with a species' social organization is, however, largely unexplored. We investigated the social knowledge of wild Guinea baboons (Papio papio) ranging in Senegal, a species that lives in a fluid multilevel society with overlapping habitat use. Using playback experiments, we tested how adult males differentiate between subjects from their own vs. a neighboring or a stranger social unit ("gang") and assessed ranging patterns with Global Positioning System (GPS) data. While territorial species usually differentiate between group and nongroup members and often respond more strongly to strangers than neighbors (the "dear enemy" effect), subjects in this highly tolerant species should largely ignore other unit members and mainly attend to subjects from their own unit. Males responded strongly after playback of calls recorded from members of their own gang, while they attended only briefly to neighbor or stranger calls. Apparently, males benefit from monitoring the social maneuvers in their own social unit, while it remains to be resolved whether they are unmotivated or unable to keep track of the identities and actions of individuals outside their own gang. The study highlights how the allocation of social attention is tuned to the specifics of a species' social organization, while a complex social organization does not necessarily translate into the need for more elaborate social knowledge. © 2012 The Author(s).


Grueter C.C.,University of Western Australia | Grueter C.C.,University of Zürich | Bissonnette A.,University of Zürich | Bissonnette A.,Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour | And 2 more authors.
Evolution and Human Behavior | Year: 2013

It is well established that allogrooming, which evolved for a hygienic function, has acquired an important derived social function in many primates. In particular, it has been postulated that grooming may play an essential role in group cohesion and that human language, as verbal grooming or gossip, evolved to maintain group cohesion in the hominin lineage with its unusually large group sizes. Here, we examine this group cohesion hypothesis and test it against the alternative grooming-need hypothesis which posits that rates of grooming are higher in species where grooming need (i.e. the motivation to groom for hygiene and its associated psychological reward) is more pronounced. This alternative predicts that the derived social function of grooming evolved mostly in those lineages that had the highest exposure to ectoparasites and dirt, i.e. terrestrial species. A detailed comparative analysis of 74 species of wild primates, controlling for phylogenetic non-independence, showed that terrestriality was a highly significant predictor of allogrooming time, consistent with the prediction. The predictions of the group cohesion hypothesis were not supported, however. Group size did not predict grooming time across primates, nor did it do so in separate intra-population analyses in 17 species. Thus, there is no comparative support for the group-cohesion function of allogrooming, which questions the role of grooming in the evolution of human language. © 2013 Elsevier Inc.


Maciej P.,German Primate Center | Maciej P.,Courant Research Center Evolution of Social Behaviour | Ndao I.,Direction de Park National de Niokolo Koba | Hammerschmidt K.,German Primate Center | And 2 more authors.
Frontiers in Zoology | Year: 2013

Background: To understand the evolution of acoustic communication in animals, it is important to distinguish between the structure and the usage of vocal signals, since both aspects are subject to different constraints. In terrestrial mammals, the structure of calls is largely innate, while individuals have a greater ability to actively initiate or withhold calls. In closely related taxa, one would therefore predict a higher flexibility in call usage compared to call structure. In the present study, we investigated the vocal repertoire of free living Guinea baboons (Papio papio) and examined the structure and usage of the animals' vocal signals. Guinea baboons live in a complex multi-level social organization and exhibit a largely tolerant and affiliative social style, contrary to most other baboon taxa. To classify the vocal repertoire of male and female Guinea baboons, cluster analyses were used and focal observations were conducted to assess the usage of vocal signals in the particular contexts.Results: In general, the vocal repertoire of Guinea baboons largely corresponded to the vocal repertoire other baboon taxa. The usage of calls, however, differed considerably from other baboon taxa and corresponded with the specific characteristics of the Guinea baboons' social behaviour. While Guinea baboons showed a diminished usage of contest and display vocalizations (a common pattern observed in chacma baboons), they frequently used vocal signals during affiliative and greeting interactions.Conclusions: Our study shows that the call structure of primates is largely unaffected by the species' social system (including grouping patterns and social interactions), while the usage of calls can be more flexibly adjusted, reflecting the quality of social interactions of the individuals. Our results support the view that the primary function of social signals is to regulate social interactions, and therefore the degree of competition and cooperation may be more important to explain variation in call usage than grouping patterns or group size. © 2013 Maciej et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Higham J.P.,Jr Research Group on Sexual Selection | Higham J.P.,New York University | Heistermann M.,Reproductive Biology Unit | Saggau C.,Jr Research Group on Sexual Selection | And 5 more authors.
BMC Evolutionary Biology | Year: 2012

Background: Female signals of fertility have evolved in diverse taxa. Among the most interesting study systems are those of multimale multifemale group-living primates, where females signal fertility to males through multiple signals, and in which there is substantial inter-specific variation in the composition and reliability of such signals. Among the macaques, some species display reliable behavioural and/or anogenital signals while others do not. One cause of this variation may be differences in male competitive regimes: some species show marked sexual dimorphism and reproductive skew, with males fighting for dominance, while others show low dimorphism and skew, with males queuing for dominance. As such, there is variation in the extent to which rank is a reliable proxy for male competitiveness, which may affect the extent to which it is in females interest to signal ovulation reliably. However, data on ovulatory signals are absent from species at one end of the macaque continuum, where selection has led to high sexual dimorphism and male reproductive skew. Here we present data from 31 cycles of 19 wild female crested macaques, a highly sexually dimorphic species with strong mating skew. We collected measures of ovarian hormone data from faeces, sexual swelling size from digital images, and male and female behaviour. Results: We show that both sexual swelling size and female proceptivity are graded-signals, but relatively reliable indicators of ovulation, with swelling size largest and female proceptive behaviours most frequent around ovulation. Sexual swelling size was also larger in conceptive cycles. Male mating behaviour was well timed to female ovulation, suggesting that males had accurate information about this. Conclusion: Though probabilistic, crested macaque ovulatory signals are relatively reliable. We argue that in species where males fight over dominance, male dominance rank is surrogate for competitiveness. Under these circumstances it is in the interest of females to increase paternity concentration and assurance in dominants beyond levels seen in species where such competition is less marked. As such, we suggest that it may in part be variation in male competitive regimes that leads to the evolution of fertility signalling systems of different reliability. © 2012 Higham et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Hamalainen A.,University of Gottingen | Hamalainen A.,Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit | Heistermann M.,German Primate Center | Fenosoa Z.S.E.,University of Antananarivo | And 3 more authors.
General and Comparative Endocrinology | Year: 2014

Reliable measurements of physiological stress are increasingly needed for eco-physiological research and for species conservation or management. Stress can be estimated by quantifying plasma glucocorticoid levels, but when this is not feasible, glucocorticoid metabolites are often measured from feces (FGCM). However, evidence is accumulating on the sensitivity of FGCM measurements to various nuisance factors. Careful species- and context-specific validations are therefore necessary to confirm the biological relevance and specificity of the method. The goals of this study were to: (1) establish and validate sampling methods and an enzymeimmunoassay to measure FGCM in the gray mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus); (2) explore causes of variability in the FGCM measurements, and; (3) assess the consequences of capturing and handling for free-living individuals by quantifying their stress responses via repeated fecal sampling within capture sessions. We further assessed the influence of different handling protocols and the animals' previous capture experience on the magnitude of the physiological response. Our validations identified the group-specific measurement of 11ß-hydroxyetiocholanolone as the most suitable assay for monitoring adrenocortical activity. The sample water content and the animal's age were found to significantly influence baseline FGCM-levels. Most captured animals exhibited a post-capture FGCM-elevation but its magnitude was not related to the handling protocol or capture experience. We found no evidence for long-term consequences of routine capturing on the animals' stress physiology. Hence the described methods can be employed to measure physiological stress in mouse lemurs in an effective and relatively non-invasive way. © 2013 The Authors.

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