Adolescent male chimpanzees do not form a dominance hierarchy with their peers


AA Sandel, RB Reddy, and JC Mitani. 2017. “Adolescent male chimpanzees do not form a dominance hierarchy with their peers.” Primates, 58, 1, Pp. 39-49. Publisher's Version


Dominance hierarchies are a prominent feature of the lives of many primate species. These hierarchies have important fitness consequences, as high rank is often positively correlated with reproduction. Although adult male chimpanzees strive for status to gain fitness benefits, the development of dominance relationships is not well understood. While two prior studies found that adolescent males do not display dominance relationships with peers, additional research at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda, indicates that adolescents there form a linear dominance hierarchy. These conflicting findings could reflect different patterns of rank acquisition across sites. An alternate possibility arises from a recent re-evaluation of age estimates at Ngogo and suggests that the report describing decided dominance relationships between adolescent males may have been due to the accidental inclusion of young adult males in the sample. To investigate these issues, we conducted a study of 23 adolescent male chimpanzees of known age during 12 months at Ngogo. Adolescent male chimpanzees exchanged pant grunts, a formal signal of submission, only 21 times. Recipients of pant grunts were late adolescent males, ranging between 14 and 16 years old. In contrast, younger adolescent males never received pant grunts from other males. Aggression between adolescent males was also rare. Analysis of pant grunts and aggressive interactions did not produce a linear dominance hierarchy among adolescent males. These data indicate that adolescent male chimpanzees do not form decided dominance relationships with their peers and are consistent with the hypothesis that the hierarchy described previously at Ngogo resulted from inaccurate age estimates of male chimpanzees. Because dominance relationships develop before adulthood in other primates, our finding that adolescent male chimpanzees do not do so is surprising. We offer possible explanations for why this is the case and suggest future studies that may help clarify the matter.