Rank‐dependent grooming patterns and cortisol alleviation in Barbary macaques

Sonnweber, R. S., Ravignani, A., Stobbe, N., Schiestl, G., Wallner, B., & Fitch, W. T. (2015). Rank‐dependent grooming patterns and cortisol alleviation in Barbary macaques. American Journal of Primatology, 77(6), 688-700. doi:10.1002/ajp.22391.
Flexibly adapting social behavior to social and environmental challenges helps to alleviate glucocorticoid (GC) levels, which may have positive fitness implications for an individual. For primates, the predominant social behavior is grooming. Giving grooming to others is particularly efficient in terms of GC mitigation. However, grooming is confined by certain limitations such as time constraints or restricted access to other group members. For instance, dominance hierarchies may impact grooming partner availability in primate societies. Consequently specific grooming patterns emerge. In despotic species focusing grooming activity on preferred social partners significantly ameliorates GC levels in females of all ranks. In this study we investigated grooming patterns and GC management in Barbary macaques, a comparably relaxed species. We monitored changes in grooming behavior and cortisol (C) for females of different ranks. Our results show that the C‐amelioration associated with different grooming patterns had a gradual connection with dominance hierarchy: while higher‐ranking individuals showed lowest urinary C measures when they focused their grooming on selected partners within their social network, lower‐ranking individuals expressed lowest C levels when dispersing their grooming activity evenly across their social partners. We argue that the relatively relaxed social style of Barbary macaque societies allows individuals to flexibly adapt grooming patterns, which is associated with rank‐specific GC management. Am. J. Primatol. 77:688–700, 2015
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