'Gatherings' of social grooming among wild chimpanzees: implications for evolution of sociality

J Hum Evol. 2003 Jan;44(1):59-71. doi: 10.1016/s0047-2484(02)00194-x.


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) often groom in gatherings that cannot simply be divided into unilateral dyadic grooming interactions. This feature of grooming is studied at two different levels: grooming cliques and grooming clusters. Grooming cliques are defined as directly connected configurations of grooming interactions at any given moment, and when any member of a clique successively grooms any member of another clique within 5min and within a distance of 3m, all the members of both cliques are defined as being in the same grooming cluster. Twenty-seven types of cliques are observed, with the largest one consisting of seven individuals. Mutual and/or polyadic cliques account for more than 25% of all cliques. The size of grooming clusters varies from two to 23 individuals, and almost 70% of the grooming time is spent in polyadic clusters. Although adult males groom the longest in relatively smaller clusters (size=2-4), adult females groomed the longest in clusters of five or more individuals. A review of the literature implies that mutual and polyadic cliques occur less often in other primate species than in chimpanzees. The importance of overlapping interactions for these kinds of gatherings and its possible significance in the evolution of sociality is discussed in this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Female
  • Grooming*
  • Group Processes*
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Dominance
  • Time