Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

From the Field: Joel Bray, Tanzania

Joel Bray  was awarded a Leakey Foundation Research Grant during our spring 2017 cycle for his project entitled “Social relationships in male chimpanzees:  Form, function, and development.” Click here to read a summary of his project. 

Joel Bray, a graduate student at Arizona State University, is studying the development of male-male social relationships in chimpanzees at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Using a combination of original fieldwork and long-term data collection, he is interested in how early social experiences predict variation in the strength and diversity of adult male social bonds.

A calm and relaxing day in the forest, just meters from the beach. In the background, adult males socialize while my focal, Google, grooms with his mother in the branches above.

Hearing chimpanzee vocalizations in the distance, a juvenile male wraps his arm around an adult male for comfort. Will the nearest adult male do or are young males more likely to approach and make contact with specific adult males rather than others?

Finished feeding, a juvenile male takes a moment to groom an adult. These types of grooming bouts tend not to last long (young kids have short attention spans), but I’m interested in whether the frequency and duration varies according to the identity of the adult partner.

Two young males take a keen interest in the activity of an adult; this type of close observation often occurs while an adult male is feeding, self-grooming, or inspecting a wound.

You can support field research projects like this! Click here to help fund science.

Physical contact is not required to nurture a relationship: here, an adolescent male is content to rest in close proximity to an adult. Immature males spend less time in close proximity to adult males than I would expect, but there is substantial variation across individuals. What effect does socialization during infancy and juvenility have on the ability to form social relationships later in life?

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