Vol 7, Issue 4, November 2020

Social Vigilance of Friends and Foes in Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)


Roth, T. S., & Sterck, E. H. M. (2020). Social vigilance of friends and foes in western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Animal Behavior and Cognition, 7(4), 537-555. doi: https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


In social species, such as many primate species, conspecifics can pose a threat and individuals that are socially vigilant can prevent harassment. Many previous studies have focused on the role of agonistic interactions on social vigilance. In a variety of primate species, individuals are more vigilant for aggressive or dominant group members. In contrast, only few studies have investigated whether affiliative relationships also affect social vigilance. These studies revealed that individuals with an affiliative relationship showed lower levels of vigilance towards each other. Here, we tested the differential effects of both dyadic agonism and affiliation on the level of social vigilance of group-living western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) at Apenheul Primate Park, The Netherlands. We made continuous focal observations of agonistic and affiliative interactions and we scored level of vigilance during neutral approaches of conspecifics. We found that dyads with many affiliative interactions showed lower levels of vigilance towards each other. The opposite pattern was found for agonistic experiences, but this effect was not statistically robust. In addition, the adult male and adolescent males received higher levels of social vigilance than individuals from other age-sex classes. Our results indicate that level of social vigilance was linked to affiliative and, to a lesser extent, agonistic relationships in western lowland gorillas. We suggest that future studies in both egalitarian and despotic species should investigate whether, next to aggression, affiliation also influences social vigilance.


Social attention, Despotism, Good relationships, Friendship, Apes, Social complexity