Sulawesi Crested Macaque (Macaca nigra) Grooming Networks Are Robust to Perturbation While Individual Associations Are More Labile

Veronica B. Cowl, Keith Jensen, Jessica M. D. Lea, Susan L. Walker, Susanne Shultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social and environmental disturbance occurs naturally, and species in bonded social groups should be resilient to it. Empirical evidence of social responses to disturbance in primates, however, remains limited. We constructed social networks using group-level scan samples (N = 299) to test the robustness of grooming networks in a captive group of 20 Sulawesi crested macaques (Macaca nigra) to two management interventions involving environmental and social disturbance. During the first, the institution removed six castrated males and one female, contracepted six of the nine remaining females, and moved the group to a new enclosure. The second involved the introduction of a novel, reproductive male five weeks later. Networks remained stable following
the first intervention. However, after introduction of the male, the number of grooming partners and the frequency of grooming with non-maternal kin increased in female-only networks. We observed less marked increases in the grooming frequency and number of grooming partners in whole group networks. Ten weeks later, network structure was more similar to that of pre-intervention networks than post-intervention networks. Our results suggest that reproductive males play a more important role in structuring Sulawesi crested macaque social networks than castrated males, as networks expanded and relationships between non-maternal kin occurred more frequently after introduction
of the reproductive male. However, network responses to interventions appeared to be temporary as networks following a period of acclimation more closely resembled preintervention networks than post-intervention networks. Our study demonstrates the utility of social network analysis for understanding the impact of disturbance on stable social groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-128
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
Early online date10 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Mar 2020


  • macaca nigra
  • management intervention
  • network plasticity
  • network robustness
  • social network analysis
  • Sulawesi crested macaque


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