Document Detail

The selfish nature of generosity: harassment and food sharing in primates.
MedLine Citation:
PMID:  15129953     Owner:  NLM     Status:  MEDLINE    
Animals may share food to gain immediate or delayed fitness benefits. Previous studies of sharing have concentrated on delayed benefits such as reciprocity, trade and punishment. This study tests an alternative model (the harassment or sharing-under-pressure hypothesis) in which a food owner immediately benefits because sharing avoids costly harassment from a beggar. I present an experiment that varies the potential ability of the beggar to harass, and of the owner to defend the food, to examine the effects of harassment on food sharing in two primate species: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis). For both species, high levels of harassment potential significantly increased both beggar harassment and sharing by the owner. Food defensibility did not affect harassment or sharing. Interestingly, squirrel monkeys and chimpanzees shared equally frequently with conspecifics despite a much higher natural sharing rate in chimpanzees. These results suggest that harassment can play a significant role in primate food sharing, providing a simple alternative to reciprocity. The selfish nature of harassment has implications for economic, psychological and evolutionary studies of cooperative systems.
Jeffrey R Stevens
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Publication Detail:
Type:  Comparative Study; Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't    
Journal Detail:
Title:  Proceedings. Biological sciences / The Royal Society     Volume:  271     ISSN:  0962-8452     ISO Abbreviation:  Proc. Biol. Sci.     Publication Date:  2004 Mar 
Date Detail:
Created Date:  2004-05-07     Completed Date:  2004-06-07     Revised Date:  2010-09-20    
Medline Journal Info:
Nlm Unique ID:  101245157     Medline TA:  Proc Biol Sci     Country:  England    
Other Details:
Languages:  eng     Pagination:  451-6     Citation Subset:  IM    
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, MN 55108, USA.
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MeSH Terms
Analysis of Variance
Cooperative Behavior*
Feeding Behavior*
Models, Biological*
Pan troglodytes / physiology*
Saimiri / physiology*
Social Behavior*

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