Single aggressive interactions increase urinary glucocorticoid levels in wild male chimpanzees

R.M. Wittig, C. Crockford, A. Weltring, T. Deschner, K. Zuberbühler

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35 Citations (Scopus)
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A basic premise in behavioural ecology is the cost-benefit arithmetic, which determines both behavioural decisions and evolutionary processes. Aggressive interactions can be costly on an energetic level, demanding increased energy or causing injuries, and on a psychological level, in the form of increased anxiety and damaged relationships between opponents. Here we used urinary glucocorticoid (uGC) levels to assess the costs of aggression in wild chimpanzees of Budongo Forest, Uganda. We collected 169 urine samples from nine adult male chimpanzees following 14 aggressive interactions (test condition) and 10 resting events (control condition). Subjects showed significantly higher uGC levels after single aggressive interactions compared to control conditions, likely for aggressors as well as victims. Higher ranking males had greater increases of uGC levels after aggression than lower ranking males. In contrast, uGC levels showed no significant change in relation to aggression length or intensity, indicating that psychological factors might have played a larger role than mere energetic expenditure. We concluded that aggressive behaviour is costly for both aggressors and victims and that costs seem poorly explained by energetic demands of the interaction. Our findings are relevant for studies of post-conflict interactions, since we provide evidence that both aggressors and victims experience a stress response to conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0118695
JournalPLoS One
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2015


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