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PloS one

The Season for Peace: Reconciliation in a Despotic Species (Lemur catta).


PMID 26569400

Abstract

However despotic a social group may be, managing conflicts of interest is crucial to preserve group living benefits, mainly based on cooperation. In despotic groups, post-conflict management via reconciliation (the first post-conflict reunion between former opponents) can occur, even if conciliatory rates are considerably different. Lemur catta is defined as a despotic species because groups are characterized by a strict linear hierarchy maintained by the adult females (the dominant sex) mainly via aggression. Reconciliation was reported in one out of four captive groups of L. catta. Here we investigate which variables influence the occurrence of reconciliation in these despotic groups. We analyzed 2339 Post Conflict (PC)-Matched Control (MC) observation pairs, collected on eight groups (five in the Berenty forest, Madagascar; three hosted at the Pistoia Zoo, Italy). Since L. catta is characterized by steep female dominance but shows female-female coalitionary support, we expected to confirm the presence of reconciliation in the study species. Consistently, we found reconciliation in one captive group and two wild groups, thus providing the first evidence of the presence of this phenomenon in wild L. catta. Moreover, because this species is a seasonal breeder (with mating occurring once a year), we expected seasonal fluctuations in reconciliation levels. Via a GLMM analysis using data from all wild groups and on a captive group followed for more than one year, we found that season (but not rank; individuals' identity, sex, and age; or group identity) significantly affected individual reconciliation rates, and such rates were lowest during the mating period. Thus, reconciliation can be present in groups in which dominants strongly influence and limit social relationships (steep dominance hierarchy) except when the advantages of intra-group cooperation are overcome by competition, as occurs in seasonal breeders when reproduction is at stake. We conclude that in despotic social groups in which coalitions are observed, the right question is not if but when reconciliation can be present.