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Primates. 2006 Oct;47(4):342-9. Epub 2006 Apr 20.

Social object play among young Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) in Arashiyama, Japan.

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Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-Oiwake-cho, Sakyo, Kyoto, 606-8502, Japan.


Social object play (SOP), i.e., social play using portable object(s), among young Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata; 0-4 years old) in the Arashiyama E troop was studied using a modified sequence sampling method from July to October 2000. SOP was a relatively common activity for most of the young macaques and often continued for long periods. Participants used many kinds of object, including edible natural objects and artificial objects, such as plastic bottles, but they never used provisioned food or wild fruit in SOP bouts. An analysis of long bouts (>/=0.5 min) revealed the following interactive SOP features: (1) at any given time, participants used only one object, and only one participant held the object; (2) during SOP play-chasing, the object holder was likely to be chased by others; (3) during long bouts, the object changed hands frequently; and (4) agonistic competition for an object among young macaques was rare. Combinations of sexes, ages, relative ranks, or matrilines of the object holder and non-holder did not affect the tendency that the holder was chased by non-holder(s) during play-chasing. Even when there was a change in object holders, the repetitiveness of this interactive pattern, i.e., that the holder would be chased during SOP bouts, distinguished the SOP structure from that of other types of social play without object(s). General proximate social play mechanisms, such as self-handicapping or role taking, were associated with SOP. Other mechanisms that affected SOP included the following: (1) young macaques treated an object as a target in play competition, and (2) 'being the holder of a target object' was associated with the 'role of the chasee.'

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