The next fall 2014 grantee we would like to introduce to you is Maura Tyrrell. She is a PhD candidate from the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, and her dissertation project is entitled “Effect of competition on male coalition patterns in crested macaques.”
Maura Tyrrell and a crested macaque
My dissertation focuses on the social relationships between wild adult male crested macaques (Macaca nigra) at Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Indonesia. I am specifically examining coalition behavior between males in different competitive contexts.
Competition between groups of related and unrelated males plays a large role in the political structure of early humans. However, current theoretical explanations of male coalitions in nonhuman primates focus primarily on mate competition within the group and seldom consider the influence of competition between groups. With my study I hope to create a clearer picture of social relationships in crested macaques by incorporating between-group and within-group competitive contexts into my examination of coalition and relationship qualities. I want to know if competitive context of coalitions (i.e. whether coalitions are directed towards a resident or male or an immigrating male/outside male in a neighboring group) varies with behaviors proposed to manage conflicts between individuals (i.e. “reconciling” after a fight, signaling friendly intentions, ritualized “greetings”). Additionally, does coalition partner choice in each context reflect differentiated patterns of affiliation, or is it primarily opportunistic?
The answers to these questions should help broaden our perspective of the evolution of human male coalitions by identifying components of early human alliances that may have evolved before the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees. Findings of parallels between coalition patterns in crested macaques, chimpanzees, and humans will suggest that these parallels not only pre-date the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, but that they do not require male philopatry and clusters of related males.