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Am J Primatol. 2011 Aug;73(8):790-801. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20907. Epub 2010 Nov 30.

Effects of natal male alliances on aggression and power dynamics in rhesus macaques.

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California National Primate Research Center, University of California Davis, Davis, California.


In the wild, male rhesus macaques disperse at sexual maturity. In captivity, however, males cannot disperse from their natal groups. Thus, the presence of natal males in captive rhesus social groups is unnatural and has the potential to negatively influence group dynamics and stability. A primary difference between natal males and non-natal (immigrant) males is that natal males have the opportunity to form long-term alliances with their maternal kin as well as nonkin. We investigated the factors associated with natal males' kin alliances and the impact of these alliances on measures of natal male behavior, group dynamics, and group stability. We found that natal males more frequently formed alliances with maternal kin when they were from high-ranking matrilines, had more siblings, and were younger. More frequent kin alliances were associated with more frequent use of intense aggression, higher individual rank, and higher degree of integration within the male displacement network. Thus, it seems that natal males use their alliances to be more active and influential in the social group, which may affect group stability. It appears that juvenile natal males from high-ranking matrilines, in particular, have the largest impact on group stability. Younger natal males from high-ranking matrilines formed alliances with kin more frequently and used intense aggression more frequently than older or lower ranking males. Furthermore, groups with a higher proportion of juvenile males from high-ranking matrilines also had higher rates of wounding. We suggest that the presence of natal males in rhesus groups may act in opposition to group stability.

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