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Social grooming among wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) at Wamba in the Luo Scientific Reserve, DR Congo, with special reference to the formation of grooming gatherings

Tetsuya Sakamaki

Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) groom in gatherings in which many individuals may be connected via multiple chains of grooming and they often exchange partners with each other. They sometimes groom another while receiving grooming; that is, one animal can play two roles (i.e., groomer and groomee) simultaneously. Although this feature of chimpanzees is notable from the viewpoint of the evolution of human sociality, information on our other closest living relative, the bonobo (Pan paniscus), is still lacking. In this study, I describe grooming interactions of bonobos at Wamba in the Luo Scientific Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), with a particular focus on the formation of grooming gatherings. Like chimpanzees, the bonobos also performed mutual grooming (two individuals grooming each other simultaneously) and polyadic grooming (three or more individuals). However, unlike chimpanzees, these sessions lasted for only a short time. Bonobos rarely groomed another while receiving grooming. Because social grooming occurred not only in trees but also in open spaces, including treefall gaps, the conditions did not necessarily limit the opportunity to make multiple chains of grooming. However, bonobos also engaged in social grooming in different ways from chimpanzees; That is, many individuals were involved simultaneously at a site, in which they separated for dyadic grooming. Some cases clearly showed that bonobos preferred a third party not to join while grooming in a dyad, suggesting that bonobos have a preference for grooming in dyads and that immature individuals formed the preference that was shared among adults while growing up. Most members of the study group ranged together during the majority of the study period. Although bonobos show a fission–fusion grouping pattern, when group members frequently encounter one another on a daily basis, they may not be motivated to form multiple grooming chains at this site, as do chimpanzees.

Primates Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2013 10.1007/s10329-013-0354-6




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