The limited impact of kinship on cooperation in wild chimpanzees

Kevin E. Langergraber, John C. Mitani, Linda Vigilant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

273 Scopus citations


The complex cooperative behavior exhibited by wild chimpanzees generates considerable theoretical and empirical interest, yet we know very little about the mechanisms responsible for its evolution. Here, we investigate the influence of kinship on the cooperative behavior of male chimpanzees living in an unusually large community at Ngogo in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Using long-term field observations and molecular genetic techniques to identify kin relations between individuals, we show that male chimpanzees clearly prefer to affiliate and cooperate with their maternal brothers in several behavioral contexts. Despite these results, additional analyses reveal that the impact of kinship is limited; paternal brothers do not selectively affiliate and cooperate, probably because they cannot be reliably recognized, and the majority of highly affiliative and cooperative dyads are actually unrelated or distantly related. These findings add to a growing body of research that indicates that animals cooperate with each other to obtain both direct and indirect fitness benefits and that complex cooperation can occur between kin and nonkin alike.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7786-7790
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - May 8 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Genotyping
  • Kin recognition
  • Microsatellites
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Relatedness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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