Social segregation in male, but not female yearling rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Am J Primatol. 2010 Feb;72(2):87-92. doi: 10.1002/ajp.20756.


Males and females of many species sex-segregate, ranging from complete separation of habitats to social segregation within the same space, sometimes varying across seasons and lifespan development. Mechanisms for such segregation are not well understood, though some have suggested that sex differences in preferred juvenile behaviors lead to greater behavioral compatibility within than between sexes. This within-sex behavioral compatibility may be the source of sex-segregation. As juvenile behavioral sex differences are well-documented in rhesus monkeys, we examined sex-segregation patterns of yearling rhesus monkeys engaged in three different types of behavior: rough play, parallel play, and grooming. We observed male and female rhesus yearlings from five stable long-term age-graded social groups of 67-183 animals. Behavioral observations were designed to collect equal numbers of rough play, grooming, and parallel play bouts. In addition, sex composition and proximity to adults was recorded for each bout. Across all behaviors, more all-male groups and fewer mixed sex-groups were observed than expected by chance. All-female groups occurred at the level expected by chance. Thus, males sex-segregated regardless of type of behavior, while females did not sex-segregate. Female groups were observed in proximity to adults more often than expected by chance. These results suggest that behavioral compatibility may produce sex-segregation in male yearling rhesus monkeys, possibly preparing males and females for different social roles and segregation as adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Grooming
  • Macaca mulatta / psychology*
  • Male
  • Play and Playthings / psychology
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Behavior*
  • Spatial Behavior*