Title page for ETD etd-10172009-103324

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Slater, Kerry
Email slatek@unisa.ac.za
URN etd-10172009-103324
Document Title The functional significance of grooming behaviour in higher primates : the case of free-living chimpanzees
Degree DPhil
Department Zoology and Entomology
Advisor Name Title
Prof J du Toit Co-Supervisor
Prof T Turner Co-Supervisor
Prof V Reynolds Co-Supervisor
Prof E Cameron Supervisor
  • focal sampling
  • scan sampling
  • copulations
  • oestrous
  • grooming
  • chimpanzees
  • Pan troglodytes
  • ad libitum sampling
Date 2009-09-02
Availability unrestricted
As a contribution to the existing knowledge of grooming in primates five and a half years of grooming data were examined from a group of free-living chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) in the Budongo Forest, Uganda, to investigate various functional significances of grooming behaviour within the context of social reinforcement. The fission–fusion social structure of chimpanzees results in group members not moving around as a single unit, but forming temporary units as the need arises. This reduces opportunities for individuals to groom others and therefore, based on time and association constraints alone, grooming was as expected found to be unevenly distributed among group members. Grooming patterns found among this group of chimpanzees were comparable to those observed in other free-living populations with variations possibly being attributed to resource base, population numbers and differences in age-sex class composition.

One of the suggested social benefits of grooming is that it is used to enhance reproductive success, either by allowing males to enhance their proximity to oestrous females, or by influencing female choice through the development of affiliative relationships with males. Grooming was found to increase between males and females, whilst females displayed sexual receptivity through the presence of anogenital swellings and grooming may be a strategy used by males to increase their access to copulation opportunities, whereas females may use grooming to increase protection from harassment by less preferred males during swollen periods and also increase the likelihood of copulation with preferred partners.

Based on the availability of oestrous females, copulations between males and adult females occurred significantly less frequently than expected, whereas copulations between males and subadult females occurred significantly more frequently than expected. Overall a positive correlation was found between grooming of females by males and frequency of copulations.

Due to concerns regarding the validity of different sampling methods, scan-focal and ad libitum sampling methods were compared to establish if results from different sampling methods were similar. Results from the scan-focal and ad libitum sampling methods had very few discrepancies, and it is suggested that ad libitum sampling methods which record behaviour types whenever they occur, may be more beneficial for species which don’t move around as a single unit and live in environments where visibility is reduced, therefore increasing the possibility of recording individuals or behaviours that are observed infrequently. Scan-focal sampling may be more beneficial in studying species which move around together in habitats which are conducive to greater visibility, therefore allowing all or most group members to be observed simultaneously.

© 2009, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Slater, K 2009, The functional significance of grooming behaviour in higher primates : the case of free-living chimpanzees, DPhil thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-10172009-103324/ >


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