Crailsheim, D., Stüger, H., P., Kalcher-Sommersguter, E. et al. 2020. Early life experience and alterations of group composition shape the social grooming networks of former pet and entertainment chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). PLoS ONE 15(1), e0226947.

The long-term effects of early life adversities on social capacities have been documented in humans and wild-caught former laboratory chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). However, former pet and entertainment chimpanzees have received little attention to date. This study aimed to investigate the long-term effects of early life experience on 18 former pet and entertainment chimpanzees, based on social grooming data collected at a primate rescue centre over a 12-year period. Moreover, we also focused on the possible short-term effects that alterations to group composition might have on grooming patterns. For this purpose, we compared stable and unstable periods (i.e. where alterations to group composition occurred). We used two individual social network measures to analyse the grooming activity and the distribution of grooming among group mates for each individual. We could show that wild-caught chimpanzees were significantly more selective regarding their grooming partners and spent less time grooming when compared to their captive born companions. We also found that individuals who were predominantly housed without conspecifics during infancy spent less time grooming compared to those who were predominantly housed with conspecifics during infancy. Furthermore, we found that alterations to the group composition had short-term effects on the distribution of social grooming from a more equal distribution during periods with a stable group composition towards a more unequal and selective distribution during unstable periods. Thus, we conclude that the social grooming networks of former pet and entertainment chimpanzees are shaped not only by long-term effects such as early life experience, but also by short-term effects such as alterations to group composition. Remarkably, we found not only captive born chimpanzees but also wild-caught individuals to adjust their grooming to socially challenging situations by modifying their grooming distribution in a similar way.

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