Long-term reciprocation of grooming in wild West African chimpanzees Article

Gomes, CM, Mundry, R, Boesch, C. (2009). Long-term reciprocation of grooming in wild West African chimpanzees . PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 276(1657), 699-706. 10.1098/rspb.2008.1324

cited authors

  • Gomes, CM; Mundry, R; Boesch, C



  • Humans are well known for their ability to keep track of social debts over extended periods of time, and for their tendency to preferentially cooperate with closely bonded partners. Non-human primates have been shown to cooperate with kin and non-kin, and reciprocate helpful acts. However, there is ongoing debate over whether they keep track of previous interactions and, if so, whether they can do it over extended periods of time, or are constrained to finalize exchanges within a single encounter. In this study, we used 3000 hours of all-day focal follows of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) to investigate whether both females and males reciprocate grooming within a single interaction, throughout the day, or over longer periods of time. We found that grooming was reciprocated more symmetrically when measured on a long-term, rather than on an immediate or short-term basis. Random giving, general allocation of grooming efforts, similarities among individuals and kinship do not appear to explain these highly reciprocal exchanges. Previously collected consecutive focal follows of single individuals revealed that dyads groomed an average of once every 7 days. Our findings strongly suggest that chimpanzees, similar to humans, are able to keep track of past social interactions, at least for a one-week period, and balance services over repeated encounters. © 2008 The Royal Society.

publication date

  • February 22, 2009

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

start page

  • 699

end page

  • 706


  • 276


  • 1657