Male-female socio-spatial relationships and reproduction in wild chimpanzees

Kevin E. Langergraber, John C. Mitani, David P. Watts, Linda Vigilant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Recent research on primates and other taxa has shown that the relationships individuals form with members of the same sex affect their reproductive success. Evidence showing that intersexual relationships also influence reproduction, however, is more equivocal. Here, we show that male chimpanzees living in an exceptionally large community display long-term tendencies to associate with particular females. These association patterns are likely to arise because individuals of both sexes selectively range in specific areas of the communal territory, with males inheriting the ranging patterns of their mothers. These differentiated male-female socio-spatial relationships involved males of widely varying ranks, and their effect on reproduction is as strong as that of male dominance rank, which in turn is as strong a predictor of reproductive success at Ngogo as in other smaller chimpanzee communities. These results show that male-female socio-spatial relationships can play a large role in chimpanzee male reproductive strategies, although they probably neither weaken nor strengthen the relationship between male dominance rank and reproductive success. Our results linking male-female socio-spatial relationships to reproduction in chimpanzees suggest that the gap between the social and mating systems of humans and their closest living relatives may not be as large as previously thought.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-873
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chimpanzees
  • Dominance rank
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Paternity
  • Reproductive success
  • Social relationships

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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