Thermal imaging reveals social monitoring during social feeding in wild chimpanzees

Claire Barrault, Adrian Soldati*, Cat Hobaiter, Stephen Mugisha, Delphine de Moor, Klaus Zuberbühler, Guillaume Dezecache

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Understanding the affective lives of animals has been a long-standing challenge in science. Recent technological progress in infrared thermal imaging has enabled researchers to monitor animals' physiological states in real-time when exposed to ecologically relevant situations, such as feeding in the company of others. During social feeding, an individual's physiological states are likely to vary with the nature of the resource and perceptions of competition. Previous findings in chimpanzees have indicated that events perceived as competitive cause decreases in nasal temperatures, whereas the opposite was observed for cooperative interactions. Here, we tested how food resources and audience structure impacted on how social feeding events were perceived by wild chimpanzees. Overall, we found that nasal temperatures were lower when meat was consumed as compared to figs, consistent with the idea that social feeding on more contested resources is perceived as more dangerous and stressful. Nasal temperatures were significant affected by interactions between food type and audience composition, in particular the number of males, their dominance status, and their social bond status relative to the subject, while no effects for the presence of females were observed. Our findings suggest that male chimpanzees closely monitor and assess their social environment during competitive situations, and that infrared imaging provides an important complement to access psychological processes beyond observable social behaviours.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210302
Number of pages9
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1860
Early online date8 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sept 2022


  • Audience effects
  • Social ecology
  • Skin temperature
  • Social cognition
  • Pan troglodytes


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