Evidence for tactical concealment in a wild primate

Aliza Le Roux, Noah Snyder-Mackler, Eila K. Roberts, Jacinta C. Beehner, Thore J. Bergman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Theory predicts that cheating individuals should alter their behaviour to avoid detection, yet empirical data for such 'deceptive' behaviour (and its putative consequence - punishment) is almost entirely absent from the literature. This dearth of evidence, particularly among primates, limits our understanding of the evolution of deception and punishment. Here, we quantify deception and punishment in a reproductive context in wild geladas (Theropithecus gelada). Individuals involved in extra-pair copulations (9% of observed copulations) exhibited behaviour consistent with tactical deception: they were less likely to vocalize and more likely to copulate when the cuckolded male was a sizable distance away (>20 m). Further, many extra-pair copulations (∼20%) elicited post-copulatory aggression - likely, punishment - from cuckolded males. This rare empirical evidence of both tactical concealment and retaliatory aggression offers a potential model system for examining the co-occurrence of deception and punishment in natural settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1462
JournalNature communications
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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