Kinship and social bonds in female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Kevin Langergraber, John Mitani, Linda Vigilant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


A large body of theoretical and empirical research suggests that kinship influences the development and maintenance of social bonds among group-living female mammals, and that human females may be unusual in the extent to which individuals form differentiated social relationships with nonrelatives. Here we combine behavioral observations of party association, spatial proximity, grooming, and space use with extensive molecular genetic analyses to determine whether female chimpanzees form strong social bonds with unrelated individuals of the same sex. We compare our results with those obtained from male chimpanzees who live in the same community and have been shown to form strong social bonds with each other. We demonstrate that party association is as good a predictor of spatial proximity and grooming in females as it is in males, that the highest party association indices are consistently found between female dyads, that the sexes do not differ in the long-term stability of their party association patterns, and that these results cannot be explained as a by-product of the tendency of females to selectively range in particular areas of the territory. We also show that close kin (i.e. mother-daughter and sibling dyads) are very rare, indicating that the vast majority of female dyads that form strong social bonds are not closely related. Additional analyses reveal that "subgroups" of females, consisting of individuals who frequently associate with one another in similar areas of the territory, do not consist of relatives. This suggests that a passive form of kin-biased dispersal, involving the differential migration of females from neighboring communities into subgroups, was also unlikely to be occurring. These results show that, as in males, kinship plays a limited role in structuring the intrasexual social relationships of female chimpanzees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)840-851
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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