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Foraging networks and social tolerance in a cooperatively breeding primate (Callithrix jacchus)

Citation

De la Fuente, María Fernanda et al. (2021), Foraging networks and social tolerance in a cooperatively breeding primate (Callithrix jacchus), Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.7pvmcvdtn

Abstract

Within-group competition over food resources can be a major cost of social living. In the wild, foragers are confronted with social (e.g. hierarchical rank) and ecological (e.g. food availability and distribution) challenges that affect their foraging decisions and feeding success. Exhibiting prosocial behaviors, such as tolerance at feeding sites, can benefit group members by developing affiliative social relationships, enhancing access to resources and maximizing fitness. We examined social tolerance at feeding sites in Callithrix jacchus, a cooperatively breeding primate species. We investigated the set of social (rank, age, sex) and ecological (food availability) factors that influence the structure and dynamics of within-group foraging association networks. We designed and conducted an experimental field study of four wild groups of common marmosets in which we controlled food distribution (concentrated or scattered) and productivity (high, medium, or low food rewards). Then, we used social network analyses to assess the number and strength of foraging associations among group members, their effects on individual food consumption, and whether recent experiences with conspecifics during foraging affected subsequent associations. Overall, common marmoset foraging association networks were cohesive, as group members jointly occupied feeding sites. The number and strength of associations varied depending on the ecological context. Associations were stronger during conditions in which food was concentrated at a single site. Individuals obtained greater access to food resources when sharing a feeding site with conspecifics, but once a food item was obtained, the forager moved to a nearby tree and consumed it away from others. Additionally, the strength of previous foraging associations and subsequent levels of social tolerance at feeding sites were positively related, a relationship compatible with the ability of memorizing associations over time and recalling the information in future decision-making. In sum, marmosets adjusted their partner choices and the strength of foraging associations in response to food availability. They exhibited increased social tolerance at feeding sites during conditions in which opportunities for contest competition were expected to be greatest. These cooperative breeding primates appear to mutually benefit by maintaining cohesive and strong affiliative relationships, and by increasing opportunities for coordinated behavior and offspring survival.