Factors influencing individual participation during intergroup interactions in mountain gorillas

Melanie O. Mirville, Amanda R. Ridley, J. P.M. Samedi, Veronica Vecellio, Felix Ndagijimana, Tara S. Stoinski, Cyril C. Grueter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


In group-living species, encounters with extragroup rivals can be one of the riskiest actions in which individuals participate. Different group members often have different incentives to participate during intergroup interactions, and individuals with fewer payoffs of competition, including those of the smaller sex and/or lower rank, may ‘free-ride’ to avoid the costs of conflict. However, there is little evidence for how different types of intergroup interactions (e.g. interactions that do not involve conflict) can influence the participation of individuals. We examined the ecological, demographic and social predictors of individual participation in interactions between 14 fully habituated mountain gorilla groups in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda from 2003 to 2015. The probability of an individual participating decreased with group size but remained relatively high in aggressive interactions and in multimale groups, illustrating the potential for ‘load lightening’ among group members. Males with fewer mating opportunities participated less often than males with more mating opportunities; however, male participation was significantly higher than female participation across all types of intergroup interactions. Females were more likely to be involved in aggressive interactions with solitary males, possibly to avoid the potential cost of infanticide if a resident male is killed or injured. Both sexes demonstrated more affiliative behaviours towards familiar groups, indicating a benefit of maintaining social relationships with familiar groups. Individuals show considerable variation in behaviour during intergroup interactions, and our results suggest that this variation is primarily driven by intergroup familiarity and individual reproductive benefits, both of which may have long-term consequences for individual fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-86
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


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