Play partner preferences in wild vervet monkeys

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Funk, Kyla Reanne
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Arts and Science
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Dept. of Psychology
Although play appears to be ubiquitous, its evolutionary function(s) are still largely unknown, and many proposed hypotheses remain controversial as they generally lack empirical evidence. I investigated four relevant contemporary hypotheses to make predictions on how primates should optimally choose play partners based on demographic variables. I studied wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythus) in the Samara private game reserve, South Africa, and collected focal sample data relating to play, as well as general scan samples and information on demographic variables. Using these data, I constructed multi-level Bayesian models which allowed me to incorporate many variables that we know structure primate social relationships—such as age, sex, kinship, and rank—simultaneously into the model in order to judge their relative effects. My data most strongly support the dominance hierarchy hypothesis, indicating that the play behaviour in these wild vervets may have benefits related to testing or establishing dominance rank relationships.
social play behaviour , training for the unexpected hypothesis , social skills hypothesis , self-assessment hypothesis , dominance hierarchy hypothesis , Play behavior in animals--Research , Cercopithecus aethiops--Behavior--Research--South Africa , Cercopithecus aethiops--Development--Research--South Africa , Cercopithecus aethiops--Infancy--Research--South Africa , Cercopithecus aethiops--Fieldwork--South Africa , Social hierarchy in animals , Social behavior in animals , Dissertations, Academic