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Behavioral Flexibility and the Evolution of Primate Social States

Strier KB, Lee PC & Ives A (2014) Behavioral Flexibility and the Evolution of Primate Social States, PLoS ONE, 9 (12), Art. No.: e114099.

Comparative approaches to the evolution of primate social behavior have typically involved two distinct lines of inquiry. One has focused on phylogenetic analyses that treat social traits as static, species-specific characteristics; the other has focused on understanding the behavioral flexibility of particular populations or species in response to local ecological or demographic variables. Here, we combine these approaches by distinguishing between constraining traits such as dispersal regimes (male, female, or bi-sexual), which are relatively invariant, and responding traits such as grouping patterns (stable, fission-fusion, sometimes fission-fusion), which can reflect rapid adjustments to current conditions. Using long-term and cross-sectional data from 29 studies of 22 species of wild primates, we confirm that dispersal regime exhibits a strong phylogenetic signal in our sample. We then show that primate species with high variation in group size and adult sex ratios exhibit variability in grouping pattern (i.e., sometimes fission-fusion) with dispersal regime constraining the grouping response. When assessing demographic variation, we found a strong positive relationship between the variability in group size over time and the number of observation years, which further illustrates the importance of long-term demographic data to interpretations of social behavior. Our approach complements other comparative efforts to understand the role of behavioral flexibility by distinguishing between constraining and responding traits, and incorporating these distinctions into analyses of social states over evolutionary and ecological time.

phylogenetic constraint; social state evolution; demography; dispersal regime

AuthorsStrier Karen B, Lee Phyllis C, Ives Anthony
Publication date03/12/2014
Date accepted by journal03/11/2014
PublisherPublic Library of Science
ISSN 1932-6203

Plos one: Volume 9, Issue 12

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