Philopatric vervet monkey females are the focus of social attention rather independently of rank

in Behaviour
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Social learning has potential advantages over individual learning but one challenge is to identify valuable information. One possibility is to not randomly learn from any social partner but mainly from specific role models like for example the mother or high ranking group members. A potential mechanism for such directed social learning could be that individuals observe the actions of role models more often than of other group members. Field experiments showed that in vervet monkeys — a species with female philopatry — dominant females are more closely watched than dominant males in an artificial fruit-type social learning task. Here, we quantified social attention to males and females under natural conditions in six groups of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) at Loskop Dam Nature Reserve, South Africa. Using the focal sampling method, we quantified the frequencies with which all adult individuals were observed by other group members of known age class, rank, sex and degree of relatedness during foraging bouts and grooming interactions. We found that group members generally paid more attention to females than to males. This effect remained when we excluded matriline members from the analyses. Furthermore, we found that an individual’s rank did not affect the attention it received from other group members. These results suggest that philopatry may promote social attention independently of an individual’s rank and across situations.



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  • Percentage of attention (median and quartiles) received by target females (with or without own offspring, N=18) and males (N=9) during foraging context (p<0.05).

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  • Percentage of attention (median and quartiles) received by target females (with or without own offspring, N=18) and males (N=9) during grooming context (p<0.05; ns, p>0.05).

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  • Percentage of attention (median and quartiles) received by dominant females (with or without own offspring, N=6) and subordinate females (with or without own offspring, N=13) during foraging context (ns, p>0.05).

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  • Percentage of attention (median and quartiles) received by dominant females (with or without own offspring, N=6) and subordinate females (with or without own offspring, N=13) during grooming context (ns, p>0.05).

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