The dynamics of grooming interactions: maintenance of partner choice and the consequences of demographic variation for female mandrills

Andre S. Pereira* (Corresponding Author), Ines D. Rebelo, Catarina Casanova, Phyllis C. Lee, Vasilis Louca

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


A large body of evidence suggests that female Old World monkeys maintain selective long-term grooming interactions with fitness benefits. The last two decades have produced evidence that the regulation of social interactions among primates can be, in part, explained by the Biological Markets theory, with grooming behaviour as the focus of these studies. Grooming facilitates bonding between individuals, constituting an essential part of the regulation of social relationships among female cercopithecids. In contrast to the well-studied baboons (Papio spp), knowledge about the nature of grooming interactions and their regulation is generally lacking for the large, terrestrial species of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). We used a combination of social network analysis tools and well-established methods for assessing partner diversity and reciprocity to characterise grooming networks, partner choice and patterns of trade (be groomed, give grooming) among females in a captive group of mandrills, both within and across two separate observation periods. Our results suggest that, even though the relatively stable conditions of captivity allowed the studied females to maintain selective grooming interactions across time, small scale demographic changes affected the grooming dynamics of the group in accordance with the expectations of the Biological Markets theory. In particular, the maturation and consequent integration of a high ranking female into the group's grooming network from one period to the next resulted in a more pronounced effect of rank on the regulation of grooming interactions. In addition, the influence of the maturation of a dependent infant on the grooming interactions of his mother were evident between periods. Our results also demonstrate that grooming networks are dynamic and that high ranking individuals are not necessarily the most central in grooming networks. Finally, we discuss the potential of social network analysis to identify cases of social exclusion and its consequences for captive management.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6332
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2019

Bibliographical note

We thank the Badoca Safari Park staff, in particular the zookeeper Ricardo Cid and the veterinaries Alfredo Martín and Nuno Siqueira, for their help in the periods of data collection. We also thank Maria Campos and Raquel Costa for useful discussions regarding the studied colony of mandrills, and Elsa Rebelo for help with graphic edition. We are also very grateful to Jennifer Vonk and to three anonymous reviewers, whose help and suggestions significantly increased the quality of the paper.


  • Mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx)
  • Social network analysis
  • Grooming partner choice
  • Grooming reciprocity
  • Female grooming interactions


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