Social tolerance in wild female crested macaques (Macaca nigra) in Tangkoko-Batuangus Nature Reserve, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Julie Duboscq, Jerome Micheletta, Muhammad Agil, Keith Hodges, Bernard Thierry, Antje Engelhardt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In primates, females typically drive the evolution of the social system and present a wide diversity of social structures. To understand this diversity, it is necessary to document the consistency and/or flexibility of female social structures across and within species, contexts, and environments. Macaques (Macaca sp.) are an ideal taxon for such comparative study, showing both consistency and variation in their social relations. Their social styles, constituting robust sets of social traits, can be classified in four grades, from despotic to tolerant. However, tolerant species are still understudied, especially in the wild. To foster our understanding of tolerant societies and to assess the validity of the concept of social style, we studied female crested macaques, Macaca nigra, under entirely natural conditions. We assessed their degree of social tolerance by analyzing the frequency, intensity, and distribution of agonistic and affiliative behaviors, their dominance gradient, their bared-teeth display, and their level of conciliatory tendency. We also analyzed previously undocumented behavioral patterns in grade 4 macaques: reaction upon approach and distribution of affiliative behavior across partners. We compared the observed patterns to data from other populations of grade 4 macaques and from species of other grades. Overall, female crested macaques expressed a tolerant social style, with low intensity, frequently bidirectional, and reconciled conflicts. Dominance asymmetry was moderate, associated with an affiliative bared-teeth display. Females greatly tolerated one another in close proximity. The observed patterns matched the profile of other tolerant macaques and were outside the range of patterns of more despotic species. This study is the first comprehensive analysis of females' social behavior in a tolerant macaque species under natural conditions and as such, contributes to a better understanding of macaque societies. It also highlights the relevance of the social style concept in the assessment of the degree of tolerance/despotism in social systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-375
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number4
Early online date10 Jan 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • females
  • social behavior
  • social tolerance
  • comparative studies
  • macaques
  • Macaca nigra


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