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Gestural communication and mating tactics in wild chimpanzees.The extent to which primates can flexibly adjust the production of gestural communication according to the presence and visual attention of the audience provides key insights into the social cognition underpinning gestural communication, such as an understanding of third party relationships. Gestures given in a mating context provide an ideal area for examining this flexibility, as frequently the interests of a male signaller, a female recipient and a rival male bystander conflict. Dominant chimpanzee males seek to monopolize matings, but subordinate males may use gestural communication flexibly to achieve matings despite their low rank. Here we show that the production of mating gestures in wild male East African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweunfurthii) was influenced by a conflict of interest with females, which in turn was influenced by the presence and visual attention of rival males. When the conflict of interest was low (the rival male was present and looking away), chimpanzees used visual/ tactile gestures over auditory gestures. However, when the conflict of interest was high (the rival male was absent, or was present and looking at the signaller) chimpanzees used auditory gestures over visual/ tactile gestures. Further, the production of mating gestures was more common when the number of oestrous and non-oestrus females in the party increased, when the female was visually perceptive and when there was no wind. Females played an active role in mating behaviour, approaching for copulations more often when the number of oestrus females in the party increased and when the rival male was absent, or was present and looking away. Examining how social and ecological factors affect mating tactics in primates may thus contribute to understanding the previously unexplained reproductive success of subordinate male chimpanzees.
Social Brain Hypothesis: Vocal and Gesture Networks of Wild ChimpanzeesA key driver of brain evolution in primates and humans is the cognitive demands arising from managing social relationships. In primates, grooming plays a key role in maintaining these relationships, but the time that can be devoted to grooming is inherently limited. Communication may act as an additional, more time-efficient bonding mechanism to grooming, but how patterns of communication are related to patterns of sociality is still poorly understood. We used social network analysis to examine the associations between close proximity (duration of time spent within 10m per hour spent in the same party), grooming, vocal communication and gestural communication (duration of time and frequency of behaviour per hour spent within 10 meters) in wild chimpanzees. The results were not corrected for multiple testing. Chimpanzees had differentiated social relationships, with focal chimpanzees maintaining some level of proximity to almost all group members, but directing gestures at and grooming with a smaller number of preferred social partners. Pairs of chimpanzees that had high levels of close proximity had higher rates of grooming. Importantly, higher rates of gestural communication were also positively associated with levels of proximity, and specifically gestures associated with affiliation (greeting, gesture to mutually groom) were related to proximity. Synchronized low-intensity pant-hoots were also positively related to proximity in pairs of chimpanzees. Further, there were differences in the size of individual chimpanzees’ proximity networks - the number of social relationships they maintained with others. Focal chimpanzees with larger proximity networks had a higher rate of both synchronized low- intensity pant-hoots and synchronized high-intensity pant-hoots. These results suggest that in addition to grooming, both gestures and synchronized vocalisations may play key roles in allowing chimpanzees to manage a large and differentiated set of social relationships. Gestures may be important in reducing the aggression arising from being in close proximity to others, allowing for proximity to be maintained for longer and facilitating grooming. Vocalisations may allow chimpanzees to communicate with a larger number of recipients than gestures and the synchronized nature of the pant-hoot calls may facilitate social bonding of more numerous social relationships. As group sizes increased through human evolution, both gestures and synchronized vocalizations may have played important roles in bonding social relationships in a more time-efficient manner than grooming.