The 'social bonding hypothesis' predicts that, in large social groups, functions of gestural grooming should be partially transferred to vocal interactions. Hence, vocal exchanges would have evolved in primates to play the role of grooming-at-a-distance in order to facilitate the maintenance of social cohesion. However, there are few empirical studies testing this hypothesis. To address this point, we compared the rate of contact call exchanges between females in two captive groups of Japanese macaques as a function of female age, dominance rank, genetic relatedness and social affinity measured by spatial proximity and grooming interactions. We found a significant positive relationship between the time spent on grooming by two females and the frequency with which they exchanged calls. Our results conform to the predictions of the social bonding hypothesis, i.e. vocal exchanges can be interpreted as grooming-at-a-distance.
Keywords: call exchange; dominance rank; grooming; kinship; macaques.
© 2015 The Author(s).