Male social rank and food competition in a primate multi-level society

Song Tao Guo, Shu Jun He, He Zhang, Rui Feng Bai, Si Meng Zhang, Rong Hou, Cyril C. Grueter, Colin A. Chapman, Derek W. Dunn, Bao Guo Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Objectives: Social animals often have dominance hierarchies, with high rank conferring preferential access to resources. In primates, competition among males is often assumed to occur predominantly over reproductive opportunities. However, competition for food may occur during food shortages, such as in temperate species during winter. Higher-ranked males may thus gain preferential access to high-profitability food, which would enable them to spend longer engaged in activities other than feeding. Materials and methods: We performed a field experiment with a breeding band of golden snub-nosed monkeys, a species that lives in a multi-level society in high-altitude forests in central China. We provisioned monkey's high-profitability food during winter when natural foods are limited, and then recorded the times individual adult males spent engaged in different behaviors. Results: Higher-ranking males spent less time feeding overall and fed on provisioned foods at a higher rate than lower-ranking males. Higher-ranking males therefore had more time to spend on alternative behaviors. We found no significant difference according to rank in times spent moving or resting. However, high-ranking males spend significantly longer on affiliative behaviors with other members of their social sub-units, especially grooming and being groomed, behaviors known to promote social cohesion in primates. Discussion: We show that preferential access to high-profitability foods likely relaxes time-budget constraints to higher-ranking males. High-ranking males thus spend more time on non-feeding activities, especially grooming, which may enhance social cohesion within their social sub-unit. We discuss the potential direct and indirect benefits to high-ranking males associated with preferential access to high-value food during winter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-642
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Physical Anthropology
Volume173
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

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