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Male monkeys use punishment and coercion to de-escalate costly intergroup fights


Arseneau-Robar, T Jean M; Müller, Eliane; Taucher, Anouk L; van Schaik, Carel P; Bshary, Redouan; Willems, Erik P (2018). Male monkeys use punishment and coercion to de-escalate costly intergroup fights. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B: Biological Sciences, 285:20172323.

Abstract

In numerous social species, males direct aggression towards female group members during intergroup fights, and this behaviour is commonly thought to function as mate guarding, even though males often target non-receptive females. In studying intergroup fights in a wild population of vervet monkeys, we found that male intragroup aggression was primarily directed towards individuals who had either just finished exhibiting, or were currently attempting to instigate intergroup aggression. Targeted females were less likely to instigate intergroup aggression in the future, indicating that male intragroup aggression functioned as coercion (when directed towards those who were currently trying to instigate a fight) and punishment (when directed towards those who had recently fought). These manipulative tactics effectively prevented intergroup encounters from escalating into fights and often de-escalated ongoing conflicts. Males who were likely sires were those most likely to use punishment/coercion, particularly when they were wounded, and, therefore, less able to protect vulnerable offspring should a risky intergroup fight erupt. This work, along with our previous finding that females use punishment and rewards to recruit males into participating in intergroup fights, highlights the inherent conflict of interest that exists between the sexes, as well as the role that social incentives can play in resolving this conflict. Furthermore, unlike other studies which have found punishment to be used asymmetrically between partners, these works represent a novel example of reciprocal punishment in a non-human animal.

Abstract

In numerous social species, males direct aggression towards female group members during intergroup fights, and this behaviour is commonly thought to function as mate guarding, even though males often target non-receptive females. In studying intergroup fights in a wild population of vervet monkeys, we found that male intragroup aggression was primarily directed towards individuals who had either just finished exhibiting, or were currently attempting to instigate intergroup aggression. Targeted females were less likely to instigate intergroup aggression in the future, indicating that male intragroup aggression functioned as coercion (when directed towards those who were currently trying to instigate a fight) and punishment (when directed towards those who had recently fought). These manipulative tactics effectively prevented intergroup encounters from escalating into fights and often de-escalated ongoing conflicts. Males who were likely sires were those most likely to use punishment/coercion, particularly when they were wounded, and, therefore, less able to protect vulnerable offspring should a risky intergroup fight erupt. This work, along with our previous finding that females use punishment and rewards to recruit males into participating in intergroup fights, highlights the inherent conflict of interest that exists between the sexes, as well as the role that social incentives can play in resolving this conflict. Furthermore, unlike other studies which have found punishment to be used asymmetrically between partners, these works represent a novel example of reciprocal punishment in a non-human animal.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:13 June 2018
Deposited On:01 Mar 2019 07:11
Last Modified:17 Sep 2019 20:09
Publisher:Royal Society Publishing
ISSN:0962-8452
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.2323
PubMed ID:29875293

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