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High rates of aggression do not predict rates of trauma in captive groups of macaques

By Brianne A. Beisner, Lauren J. Wooddell, Darcy L. Hannibal, Amy Nathman, Brenda McCowan

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Abstract

Socially inflicted traumas are a major concern for the management of captive groups of rhesus macaques. Rhesus macaques are the most commonly used nonhuman primate in biomedical research, and social housing is optimal for promoting psychological well-being. However, trauma is frequent due to a strong reliance on aggression to establish and maintain hierarchical relationships. We studied six captive groups of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) that underwent a variety of social perturbations and explored whether rates of aggression mapped onto rates of trauma using a fine-grained analysis that divided both aggression and trauma variables into specific, behaviorally-relevant categories (e.g., severe aggression by adult males relative to lacerations). Results did not show the expected positive relationship between aggression variables and trauma variables. Instead, rates of trauma (i.e., lacerations, moderate-severe trauma, total trauma) were negatively associated with the rate of impartial interventions (i.e., an intervention directed at both targets during an ongoing conflict) during baseline periods. Additionally, rates of trauma (i.e., lacerations, punctures, moderate-severe trauma, total trauma) were negatively associated with rates of total aggression following temporary knockouts of the individuals who commonly intervene impartially (i.e., conflict policers), and punctures and moderate-severe trauma were negatively associated with rates of severe aggression by adult males following permanent knockout of a high-ranked natal male. These results suggest that under homeostatic conditions, impartial interventions serve as a mechanism to reduce socially inflicted trauma but, following social manipulations of high-ranking males, an imbalance emerges. Our results underscore the importance of developing management strategies for rhesus macaque groups that promote internal social mechanisms of social stability such as maintaining conflict policing individuals (i.e., adult males) in social groups.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 212
Pages 82-89
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2019.01.003
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Tags
  1. Aggressive behavior
  2. Conflict
  3. Injuries
  4. Primates
  5. stability