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Side-Directed Communication and Agonistic Interactions in Chimpanzees

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In the large colony of chimpanzees in Arnhem Zoo (Netherlands) 70% of the agonistic encounters occurred as part of interactions involving three or more individuals. The present paper treats an example of one such multi-animal interaction. The example serves to illustrate how we analyse and interpret interaction structures, individual roles and strategies. Special attention is paid to side-directed communication: i.e. behaviour that agonistically involved apes show towards non-opponents. A multi-variate analysis of the contexts of this highly variable behaviour indicates that it can be divided into several functional categories; taking refuge; seeking reassurance; enlisting support; begging for support and taking courage. In general, side-directed behaviour facilitates intervention by third parties. But sometimes its function may be to appease potential supporters of the opponent, and thus keep them from interfering.


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Affiliations: 1: (Laboratory of Comp. Physiology, University of Utrecht, and Burgers' Dierenpark, Arnhem, The Netherlands


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