An Analysis of Reciprocal Altruism in the Allogrooming Behavior of Ringtailed Lemurs (Lemur catta)
Kilcoyne, Maureen Catherine
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Reciprocal altruism is a social interaction in which helpful services or actions are reciprocated or interchanged for different, but equally beneficial behaviors. Reciprocal altruism involves higher cognitive abilities and, hence, is considered one of the most complex behaviors exhibited by animals (Tomasello and Call, 1997). In primates, allogrooming is a behavior that can be used fur exchange in this system of reciprocal altruism. Many studies have observed how allogrooming is reciprocated and interchanged among the anthropoid primates, while few have found or even focused on reciprocal altruism in the allogrooming behavior of prosimian primates (primates with less cognitive capacity). In this study, reciprocity and interchange were investigated in the allogrooming behavior of a prosimain species, the ringtailed lemur (Lemur catta). Reciprocal altruism was examined in two contexts: 1) the reciprocation of allogrooming within bouts and 2) the interchange of allogrooming for social tolerance. Observation was performed with two groups of semi-free ranging ringtailed lemurs at the Duke University Primate Center. It was found that the ringtailed lemurs did significantly reciprocate total allogrooming within bouts, but did not reciprocate unilateral allogrooming (excluding simultaneous grooming). Additionally, the presence of gratuitous bouts and bout exits provided more mixed evidence for the prediction of reciprocation of allogroooming within bouts. More conclusive support was uncovered for the interchange of allogrooming for social tolerance. It was discovered that subordinates did give a greater percentage of grooming to dominates than to "equals". Furthermore, subordinates were found to give an even greater percentage of grooming to dominates with whom they have more frequent aggressive interactions than to dominates with they experience more peaceful interactions. This demonstration of reciprocal altruism suggests that ringtailed lemurs are aware of their social relations and may have more social intelligence and cognitive skills than previously thought.
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