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How adaptive or phylogenetically inert is primate social behaviour? A test with two sympatric colobines

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[Socio-ecological theories predict that females adapt their social behaviour to their environment. On the other hand, as a result of phylogenetic inertia, social behaviour may be slow to catch up when the environment changes. If social behaviour is adapted to the environment, competition and co-operation among females is predicted to reflect the characteristics of food sources. Contest competition both between and within groups is expected to result in alliances among related, philopatric, females. We compared social relationships and food characteristics of two sympatric and congeneric primate species, the red colobus and the black-and-white colobus of the Taï National Park, Ivory Coast. We found that affiliative interactions among females were comparable between the species. The differences in food characteristics could explain why black-and-white females competed more often than did red colobus females, both at the intra- and inter-group level. In contrast to socio-ecological theory, female inter-group aggression was not linked to female philopatry in black-and-white colobus. The species differed from each other and from other populations of the same or closely related species with respect to their inter-group behaviour which indicates that phylogenetic inertia did not constrain this aspect of social behaviour., Socio-ecological theories predict that females adapt their social behaviour to their environment. On the other hand, as a result of phylogenetic inertia, social behaviour may be slow to catch up when the environment changes. If social behaviour is adapted to the environment, competition and co-operation among females is predicted to reflect the characteristics of food sources. Contest competition both between and within groups is expected to result in alliances among related, philopatric, females. We compared social relationships and food characteristics of two sympatric and congeneric primate species, the red colobus and the black-and-white colobus of the Taï National Park, Ivory Coast. We found that affiliative interactions among females were comparable between the species. The differences in food characteristics could explain why black-and-white females competed more often than did red colobus females, both at the intra- and inter-group level. In contrast to socio-ecological theory, female inter-group aggression was not linked to female philopatry in black-and-white colobus. The species differed from each other and from other populations of the same or closely related species with respect to their inter-group behaviour which indicates that phylogenetic inertia did not constrain this aspect of social behaviour.]

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