Relationships Between Adult Male and Maturing Mountain Gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) Persist Across Developmental Stages and Social Upheaval

Stacy Rosenbaum, Jean Paul Hirwa, Joan Silk, Tara S. Stoinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Across the animal kingdom, long-term social relationships outside the context of reproductive pair bonds are rare. However, they have been demonstrated in some mammals including primates, cetaceans, and social carnivores. The ontogeny of such relationships is likely to depend on the benefits individuals can gain by cultivating them. Previous studies demonstrated that young mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) have strong relationships with adult males, but little is known about the longevity of these bonds. Here, we examine the temporal stability of proximity relationships between coresident adult male and maturing gorillas in the habituated population monitored by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International's Karisoke Research Center in Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda. We used spatial proximity data to assess the strength of relationships between adult males and juveniles, and tracked these relationships as the juveniles matured into subadults (3-4 yr later; n = 229 dyads) and then young adults (7 yr later; n = 42 dyads). The proximity relationships of juveniles of both sexes predicted their proximity relationships with adult males in both subadulthood and young adulthood. However some young adult males who had lost their top adult male proximity partner from juvenilehood developed new relationships with older males that had risen in the dominance hierarchy. These data suggest that (1) kin selection may play a more important role in social relationships between potential fathers and adult female offspring than previously suspected, and (2) when maturing males' foremost adult male social partners remain available to them, their relationships can be stable past the age at which younger males become reproductive competitors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)134-150
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016


  • Inter- vs intrasex relationships
  • Kin selection
  • Long-term social relationships
  • Male-immature relationships
  • Social stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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