Lethal intergroup aggression by chimpanzees in Kibale National Park, Uganda

Am J Primatol. 2006 Feb;68(2):161-80. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20214.


Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) have hostile intergroup relations throughout most or all of their geographic range. Hostilities include aggressive encounters between members of neighboring communities during foraging and during patrols in which members of one community search for neighbors near territory boundaries. Attacks on neighbors involve coalitions of adult males, and are sometimes fatal. Targets include members of all age/sex classes, but the risk of lethal intergroup coalitionary aggression is highest for adult males and infants, and lowest for sexually swollen females. The best-supported adaptive explanation for such behavior is that fission-fusion sociality allows opportunities for low-cost attacks that, when successful, enhance the food supply for members of the attackers' community, improve survivorship, and increase female fertility. We add to the database on intergroup coalitionary aggression in chimpanzees by describing three fatal attacks on adult males, plus a fourth attack on an adult male and an attack on a juvenile that were almost certainly fatal. Observers saw four of these attacks and inferred the fifth from forensic and behavioral evidence. The attackers were males in two habituated, unprovisioned communities (Ngogo and Kanyawara) in Kibale National Park, Uganda. We also summarize data on other intercommunity attacks at Ngogo. Our observations are consistent with the "imbalance of power" hypothesis [Manson & Wrangham, Current Anthropology 32:369-390, 1991] and support the argument that lethal coalitionary intergroup aggression by male chimpanzees is part of an evolved behavioral strategy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Male
  • Pan troglodytes / physiology*
  • Survival Rate
  • Uganda