Grooming, kinship, and co-feeding in captive spider monkeys

Source: Zoo Biology, Volume 20, Issue 4, 2001
Allo-grooming is perhaps the most powerful affiliative behavior observed in non-human primates. However, the functional significance of grooming in New World monkeys has not yet been fully understood.
This is perhaps because grooming is less frequently observed in platyrrhines. To differentiate the potential role of affiliative investment and/or kinship on sharing access to food (co-feeding) in spider monkeys, behavioral data on grooming, embracing, and feeding were collected from two different groups of captive study subjects: a familiar/kin group and a non-familiar/non-kin group. The results of this study suggest that family-related spider monkeys that engage in grooming tend to share access to food resources more than unfamiliar conspecifics that do not groom. One explanation for this difference is that the unfamiliar study subjects had not yet invested in the affiliative social network, were not reciprocating their affiliative investments and hence, had a higher tendency toward single animal monopolizing resources. Degree of relatedness alone was not found to be a determinant for sharing the access to food, suggesting that familiarity in spider monkeys is based on the extent to which animals invest in affiliative relationships. In this study, only animals that had engaged in long-term grooming and recognized each other as familiar shared the access to food. Therefore, it might be likely that in spider monkeys, long-term grooming of high intensity has to be developed for co-feeding to occur.

Title: Grooming, kinship, and co-feeding in captive spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi)

Author: Rosalía Pastor-Nieto