Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Contra-hierarchical aggression among female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)
by Seil, Shannon K., M.S., University of California, Davis, 2014, 52; 1585123
Abstract (Summary)

Among rhesus macaques, bi-directional aggression may occur between animals with shifting or ambiguous ranks, or between those whose relative ranks are well established. Factors that influence the latter case (here termed "insubordinate aggression") are not well understood. These factors are of interest because insubordinate aggression may be associated with stability in dominance relationships, and stability in dominance relationships is critically related to group stability. We hypothesized that in well-established female dominance relationships, the likelihood of insubordination during conflicts is influenced by characteristics of both opponents. Multivariate analysis of 11,591 dyadic conflicts among females in six captive rhesus groups shows that dyadic and individual characteristics related to weight, rank, age, and access to social support affect the likelihood of insubordinate aggression. As expected, insubordinate aggression is less likely to occur among dyads with high disparity in weight. The effects of age, rank, and access to social support are more complex. Increasing subordinate age is associated with increased modulation of insubordinate aggression according to opponent age. Age-based deference, i.e. suppression of insubordination associated with opponent age, decreases with increasing age of the lower-ranking opponent. Similarly, dyadic rank disparity has different effects on insubordination rate according to the age of the subordinate opponent. As females age, their likelihood of insubordination is less dependent on the degree to which they are outranked by their opponent. Also, the lower-ranking opponent's level of social support significantly affects her likelihood of insubordination, but the dominant animal's level of social support does not affect her likelihood of receiving insubordination. We predicted that for the lower-ranking opponent, having many maternal kin would promote insubordinate behavior, whereas for the higher-ranking opponent, having many maternal kin would inhibit insubordination. However, our results show that the dominant's matriline size has no effect on her likelihood of receiving insubordination. Further, matriline size has the opposite of the predicted effect for subordinates--subordinates with many maternal kin are significantly less likely to be insubordinate than those with few kin. We propose some possible explanations for this, which will require further investigation. Taken together, this research suggests that females gauge their degree of deference to dominants based on their own characteristics relative to their opponent's, taking into account size, age and weight differences as well as their own access to social support. Features of subordinate animals emerge as more important than those of dominants in determining the likelihood of insubordinate aggression in dyadic conflicts. Understanding determinants of insubordination will contribute to management practices aimed at maintenance of group stability, as the ultimate act of insubordinate aggression, social overthrow, poses a major welfare and management problem.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McCowan, Brenda
Commitee: Tucker, Cassandra B., Zhou, Huaijun
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Animal Biology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 54/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: Animal sciences, Behavioral Sciences
Keywords: Aggression, Contra-hierarchical aggression, Dominance, Macaques, Primates, Social stability
Publication Number: 1585123
ISBN: 978-1-321-60986-8
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