Intergroup encounters in Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi): who fights and why?
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/13295
ABSTRACT: Individuals living in groups have to achieve collective action for successful territorial defense. Because conflicts between neighboring groups always involve risks and costs, individuals must base their decision to participate in a given conflict on an evaluation of the trade-off between potential costs and benefits. Since group members may differ in motivation to engage in group encounters, they exhibit different levels of participation in conflicts. In this study, we investigated factors influencing participation in intergroup encounters in Verreaux's sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi), a group-living primate from Madagascar. Over a period of 12 months, we studied eight adjacent sifaka groups in Kirindy Forest. We observed 71 encounters between known neighboring groups in which adult females and males participated equally as often. No individual participated in every encounter, and non-participation occurred more often in larger groups. Females participated less often in encounters when they had dependent infants, presumably to reduce the risk of infanticide. Male participation was influenced by social status: dominant males participated in most encounters, whereas males with fewer opportunities to reproduce participated less often, hence male participation is influenced by the incentive of maintaining access to females. The number of actively participating individuals in the opponent group positively influenced the participation in both sexes. Thus, sifakas seem to decide joining a given encounter opportunistically, most likely based on a combination of individual incentives and the actual circumstance of each encounter, suggesting that the complexity in intergroup relationships appears to be the product of decisions made by each individual group member. SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT: Cooperation among group-living animals is often challenged by collective action problems resulting from individual differences in interests in contributing to collective behaviors. Intergroup encounters involve distinguished costs and benefits for each individual despite being in the same social group. Therefore, encounters between groups offer a good opportunity to investigate individual participation in collective action. In this study, we investigate the influence of different incentives on individual participation in intergroup encounters in wild Malagasy primate, Verreaux's sifakas. We propose a novel approach that takes into account the variable circumstances of each conflict, such as the number of individuals fighting in both groups as a predictor for participation. We believe that our study not only provides novel data on wild sifakas, but it also offers new perspectives for the interpretation of intergroup relationships in other taxa.