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We analyzed co-feeding in relation to degree of kinship in Japanese macaques Macaca fuscata), testing experimentally five categories of matrilineal kin dyads: mother-daughter, grandmother-granddaughter, sisters, aunt-niece and nonkin. In each test, two adult females with a clear dominance relationship had access to a box containing a limited quantity of highly prized food. The dominant female could easily prevent the subordinate from eating so that food was easily monopolizable, hence the use of the expression tolerated co-feeding. Rates of tolerated co-feeding increased steeply with degree of kinship. The aggression levels of dominant females towards subordinate females decreased with increasing degree of kinship and this effect was most apparent between mothers and daughters. The confidence level of subordinate females increased with degree of kinship and this effect became apparent above the aunt-niece kin class. Prior access to food by the subordinate female was a significant means of access to food, mostly beyond the grandmother-granddaughter kin category. The results point to a relatedness threshold for the preferential treatment of kin at r = 0.25 (grandmother-granddaughter and sister dyads), beyond which (r = 0.125: aunt-niece dyads), levels of tolerated co-feeding were comparable to those of nonkin females. The identity of this threshold with that found in previous studies on the same group for two different types of interactions suggests the existence of a generalized relatedness threshold for kin favoritism in Japanese macaques. Assuming that the costs of food defense by the dominant females were negligible and that tolerated co-feeding was altruistic, our results support the role of kin selection in the evolution of altruism in primates beyond the mother-offspring bond.

Affiliations: 1: Département d'anthropologie, Université de Montréal C.P. 6128, Succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, H3C 3J7, Canada


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