Intra-community coalitionary lethal attack of an adult male southern muriqui (Brachyteles arachnoides)

Am J Primatol. 2009 Oct;71(10):860-7. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20713.

Abstract

We report on the first evidence of intra-community coalitionary lethal aggression in muriquis (Brachyteles). The event occurred in southern muriquis (Brachyteles arachnoides) during a long-term study (>15 years) of two social groups inhabiting mostly pristine Atlantic forest habitat in the Parque Estadual Carlos Botelho, southern São Paulo State, Brazil. The attack took place deep in the core area of the Group Caetê home range. Tense agonistic behaviors and vocalizations preceded the lethal coalitionary attack, and the tension increased over a 36-48 hr period. One adult female and two unidentified individuals also took part in a coalition led by six adult males. The members of the coalition collectively approached, embraced, immobilized and repeatedly bit the entire body of an adult male, resulting in severe bleeding injuries and the victim's death in less than 1 hr after the attack commenced. Combined ecological, behavioral and spatial data related to the event indicate that this was an intra-community attack and suggest social tensions related to mating competition as the proximate trigger of the coalitionary killing. The attack resembled those reported for chimpanzees, with clear numeric superiority and a low risk of injury to aggressors, resulting in the death of a lone conspecific victim. This observation (n=1) is suggestive of a capacity for escalated aggression in muriquis and reinforces arguments for the potential adaptive significance of intra-community aggression in male philopatric societies, as reported for spider monkeys and chimpanzees. These characteristics challenge the view of the muriquis as a peaceful primate and support the general hypothesis that imbalances of power contribute to intra-specific killing in primates, such as chimpanzees and humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Agonistic Behavior / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Atelinae / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Brazil
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Ecosystem
  • Female
  • Male
  • Social Dominance
  • Trees