Chimpanzee communities differ in their inter- and intrasexual social relationships

Bruce S. Rawlings, Edwin J. C. Van Leeuwen, Marina Davila-Ross

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Male and female human social bonding strategies are culturally shaped, in addition to being genetically rooted. Investigating nonhuman primate bonding strategies across sex groups allows researchers to assess whether, as with humans, they are shaped by the social environment or whether they are genetically predisposed. Studies of wild chimpanzees show that in some communities males have strong bonds with other males, whereas in others, females form particularly strong intrasex bonds, potentially indicative of cultural differences across populations. However, excluding genetic or ecological explanations when comparing different wild populations is difficult. Here, we applied social network analysis to examine male and female social bonds in two neighbouring semiwild chimpanzee groups of comparable ecological conditions and subspecies compositions, but that differ in demographic makeup. Results showed differences in bonding strategies across the two groups. While female–female party co-residence patterns were significantly stronger in Group 1 (which had an even distribution of males and females) than in Group 2 (which had a higher proportion of females than males), there were no such differences for male–male or male–female associations. Conversely, female–female grooming bonds were stronger in Group 2 than in Group 1. We also found that, in line with captive studies but contrasting research with wild chimpanzees, maternal kinship strongly predicted proximity and grooming patterns across the groups. Our findings suggest that, as with humans, male and female chimpanzee social bonds are influenced by the specific social group they live in, rather than predisposed sex-based bonding strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-58
JournalLearning & Behavior
Issue number1
Early online date1 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2023


  • Social network analysis
  • chimpanzee
  • male
  • female
  • social bonding
  • primate

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