Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Targets and Tactics of Play Fighting: Competitive versus Cooperative Styles of Play in Japanese and Tonkean Macaques


Macaques are the most geographically widespread and behaviorally diverse primate genus, and although macaque species share the same, basic social structure, they display broad inter specificvariation in patterns of adult social behavior. Based on these patterns, macaque species have been arranged along a 4-grade scale for social style. At one end of the scale, there are grade 1 species (e.g., Japanese macaques) that have highly hierarchical and despotic social systems, and at the other end, grade 4 species (e.g., Tonkean macaques) that have more relaxed and egalitarian social systems. We predicted that a species from the more despotic end of the spectrum should have more competitive play fights and that a species from the egalitarian end, more cooperative ones. A detailed analysis of videotaped sequences of juvenile play fighting in Tonkean and Japanese macaques was used to characterize the targets and tactics of attack and defense. Even though the two species have a similar behavioral repertoire, there are significant differences in how that repertoire is used and these differences are consistent with one species having more competitive interactions than the other. Contrasting multi-animal play fights versus pairs showed that the more cooperative style of the Tonkean macaques is further exaggerated. The results suggest that differences in styles of attack anddefense in play fighting may be influenced by differences in the species’ social systems.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View