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Primates. 2006 Jan;47(1):6-13. Epub 2005 Nov 9.

Demographic influences on the behavior of chimpanzees.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan, 1085 South University Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1107, USA.


Recent research has revealed substantial diversity in the behavior of wild chimpanzees. Understanding the sources of this variation has become a central focus of investigation. While genetic, ecological, and cultural factors are often invoked to explain behavioral variation in chimpanzees, the demographic context is sometimes overlooked as a contributing factor. Observations of chimpanzees at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda, reveal that the size and structure of the unit group or community can both facilitate and constrain the manifestation of behavior. With approximately 150 individuals, the Ngogo community is much larger than others that have been studied in the wild. We have taken advantage of the unusual demographic structure of this community to document new and intriguing patterns of chimpanzee behavior with respect to hunting, territoriality, and male social relationships. Chimpanzees at Ngogo hunt often and with a considerable degree of success. In addition, male chimpanzees there frequently patrol the boundary of their territory and engage in repeated bouts of lethal intergroup aggression. By forming two distinct subgroups, male chimpanzees at Ngogo also develop social bonds above the level of dyadic pairs. While the sheer number of chimpanzees contributes to differences in hunting, patrolling, mating, and subgrouping at Ngogo, the demographic situation may also constrain behavioral interactions. At Ngogo, male chimpanzees who are closely related genetically through the maternal line do not appear to affiliate or cooperate with each other. Demographic constraints may be responsible for this finding. In this paper, I use these examples to illustrate how the demographic context affects the possible range of behavioral options open to individuals and ultimately contributes to the explanation of behavioral diversity in chimpanzees.

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