Friends in high places: interspecific grooming between chimpanzees and primate prey species in Budongo Forest

Elodie Freymann*, Michael A. Huffman, Geresomu Muhumuza, Monday Mbotella Gideon, Klaus Zuberbühler, Catherine Hobaiter

*Corresponding author for this work

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While cases of interspecies grooming have been reported in primates, no comprehensive cross-site review has been published about this behavior in great apes. Only a few recorded observations of interspecies grooming events between chimpanzees and other primate species have been reported in the wild, all of which have thus far been in Uganda. Here, we review all interspecies grooming events recorded for the Sonso community chimpanzees in Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda, adding five new observations to the single, previously reported event from this community. A new case of interspecies play involving three juvenile male chimpanzees and a red-tailed monkey is also detailed. All events took place between 1993 and 2021. In all of the six interspecific grooming events from Budongo, the ‘groomer’ was a female chimpanzee between the ages of 4–6 years, and the ‘recipient’ was a member of the genus Cercopithecus. In five of these events, chimpanzee groomers played with the tail of their interspecific grooming partners, and except for one case, initiated the interaction. In three cases, chimpanzee groomers smelled their fingers after touching distinct parts of the receiver’s body. While a single function of chimpanzee interspecies grooming remains difficult to determine from these results, our review outlines and assesses some hypotheses for the general function of this behavior, as well as some of the costs and benefits for both the chimpanzee groomers and their sympatric interspecific receivers. As allogrooming is a universal behavior in chimpanzees, investigating the ultimate and proximate drivers of chimpanzee interspecies grooming may reveal further functions of allogrooming in our closest living relatives, and help us to better understand how chimpanzees distinguish between affiliative and agonistic species and contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-337
Number of pages13
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2023


  • Interspecifc interactions
  • Interspecifc grooming
  • Polyspecifc interactions
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Guenon


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