Third-party ranks knowledge in wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops pygerythrus)

Christele Borgeaud*, Erica van de Waal, Redouan Bshary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The Machiavellian/Social Intelligence Hypothesis proposes that a complex social environment selected for advanced cognitive abilities in vertebrates. In primates it has been proposed that sophisticated social strategies like obtaining suitable coalition partners are an important component of social intelligence. Knowing the rank relationships between group members is a basic requirement for the efficient use of coalitions and the anticipation of counter-coalitions. Experimental evidence for such knowledge currently exists in only few species. Here, we conducted rank reversal playback experiments on adult females belonging to three different groups of free-ranging vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops pygerythrus) to test their knowledge of the female hierarchy. Playbacks simulating rank reversals (subordinate aggressing a dominant) induced longer looking times than playbacks simulating a dominant aggressing a subordinate. Vervet monkey females therefore seem to compute the rank relationships between other females. Our results suggest that detailed social knowledge about rank relationships may be widespread in primates and potentially also in other species living in stable groups.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere58562
Number of pages4
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2013


  • Transitive inference
  • Social competence
  • Group-size
  • Baboons
  • Primates
  • Classification
  • Macaques
  • Context
  • Kinship
  • Fish


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