Immature Male Chimpanzees’ (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) Social Relationships with Adult Males, but Not Peers, Persist into Adulthood

Joel Bray, Carson M. Murray, Ian C. Gilby, Margaret A. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Highly differentiated and affiliative social relationships are observed in a variety of mammals, including primates, cetaceans, and social carnivores. Although there has been a transformation in our understanding of the form and function of social bonds in the past two decades, the role of early life social experiences in the development of bonds remains less clear. Few studies have examined whether social relationships during infancy and juvenility (aside from those between mothers and offspring) persist into adulthood. In this study, we used longitudinal data on wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe National Park, Tanzania, to investigate the effects of party-level association during infancy and juvenility (hereafter immaturity) on affiliative relationships among adult males (the philopatric sex). In total, we examined behavioral data from focal follows between 1970 and 2015 (N = 23 adult males). We used maternal associations as proxies for the associations of immature males, and we measured adult male social relationships using party-level associations and grooming activity. We found that immature males that associated with individual adult males at higher rates had stronger relationships with those same adult males later in life. By contrast, rates of association between pairs of immature males did not predict the strength of their dyadic relationships as adults. Overall, these findings emphasize the importance of early socialization in male chimpanzee social development. These results also reinforce studies in mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.), suggesting that the persistence of social relationships that do not involve the mother may be more likely to evolve in long-lived species where young adult males face challenges entering an adult hierarchy composed of stronger and/or more socially experienced competitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-721
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Association
  • Grooming
  • Maternal behavior
  • Social development
  • Sociality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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