Responses to social and environmental stress are attenuated by strong male bonds in wild macaques

Young, Christopher and Majolo, Bonaventura and Heistermann, Michael and Schülke, Oliver and Ostner, Julia (2015) Responses to social and environmental stress are attenuated by strong male bonds in wild macaques. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . ISSN 1411450111

Full content URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1411450111

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Abstract

In humans and obligatory social animals, individuals with weak social ties experience negative health and fitness consequences. The social buffering hypothesis conceptualises one possible mediating mechanism: during stressful situations the presence of close social partners buffers against the adverse effects of increased physiological stress levels. We tested this hypothesis using data on social (rate of aggression received) and environmental (low temperatures) stressors in wild male Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in Morocco. These males form strong, enduring, and equitable affiliative relationships similar to human friendships. We tested the effect of the strength of a male’s top three social bonds on his faecal glucocorticoid metabolite (fGCM) levels as a function of the stressors’ intensity. The attenuating effect of stronger social bonds on physiological stress increased both with increasing rates of aggression received and with decreasing minimum daily temperature. Ruling out thermoregulatory and immediate effects of social interactions on fGCM levels, our results indicate that male Barbary macaques employ a tend-and-befriend coping strategy in the face of increased environmental as well as social day-to-day stressors. This evidence of a stress-ameliorating effect of social bonding among males under natural conditions and beyond the mother-offspring, kin or pair bond broadens the generality of the social buffering hypothesis.

Keywords:cortisol, faecal glucocorticoid metabolites;, male social relationships;, social bonds, social buffering hypothesis, bmjgoldcheck, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
C Biological Sciences > C800 Psychology
C Biological Sciences > C390 Zoology not elsewhere classified
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:16301
Deposited On:18 Dec 2014 09:38

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