MacAllister, R. P., Heagerty, A., Coleman, K. 2020. Behavioral predictors of pairing success in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). American Journal of Primatology 82(1), e23081.
Pair housing is one of the most important components of behavioral management for caged macaques; however, it can result in aggression and injury if partners are incompatible. Knowing when to proceed and when to stop social introductions can be challenging, and can have consequences for the partners. We examined whether behavior early in social introductions predicted success (i.e., partners remained cohoused with full contact for at least 28 days) in 724 female-female and 477 male-male rhesus macaque pairs. We took cage side one-zero focal observations on pairs during the first 2 days of full contact, recording social and aggressive behaviors. The majority of pairs (79.6% of female and 83.0% of male) were successful. The most common behaviors exhibited by pairs during these observations were maintaining proximity, tandem threats, and anxiety. Mounting was also relatively common in male pairs. Grooming and close social contact (e.g., touching) were not common in our study. Several behaviors observed on Day 1 significantly predicted pairing success. For females, these included proximity, tandem threat, rump present, mount, and groom. Day 1 predictors of success for male pairs included proximity, tandem threat, rump present, mount, and social contact. Fewer behaviors predicted success on Day 2. Maintaining proximity on Day 2 predicted success for both sexes, but tandem threat predicted success only for females. Behaviors that predicted incompatibility for females on Day 1 included displace, grimace, threat, bite, and other aggressive contacts. Day 1 predictors of separation for male pairs were displaced, grimace, and abnormal behavior. The only Day 2 behavior that correlated with incompatibility was grimace, which was predictive for males. Interestingly, aggression did not predict incompatibility for male pairs. Identifying behaviors exhibited by monkeys early in the pair introduction that are predictive of long-term compatibility can shape pairing decisions, reducing later stress and potential injury.