Wooddell, L. J., Beisner, B. A., Nathman, A. C. et al. 2022. Sex differences in hierarchical stability in a formation of a mixed-sex group of rhesus macaques. JAALAS 61(1), 67-74.
Forming groups of captive rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) is a common management practice. New formations of unfamiliar macaques can be costly, with high levels of trauma, particularly as intense aggression is used to establish a dominance hierarchy. Combining previous subgroups into one new group may be beneficial, as some individuals already have established dominance relationships. We tested this hypothesis by forming a new mixed-sex group of rhesus macaques that combined an established group of females with an established group of males. Prior to the mixed-sex group formation, both the female and male hierarchies had been stable for 3 y; after mixed-sex group formation these hierarchies were maintained by the females and were initially maintained by the males for 3 wks. However, the temporary hospitalization (due to a laceration caused by aggression) of the alpha male destabilized the male hierarchy. Age and weight then predicted male rank. Temporary hospitalizations resulted in rank changes for the males, evidenced by reversals in subordination signals. This study indicates that using established groups of familiar individuals may maintain female hierarchical stability in a mixedsex group formation, but further research is needed to understand how to maintain and predict male hierarchical stability to reduce trauma. Improved knowledge of hierarchical stability would be invaluable to managers of large rhesus macaque groups and would help improve the welfare of captive rhesus macaques.