Functions of an unreported "rocking-embrace" gesture between female Japanese Macaques (Macaca fuscata) in Kinkazan Island, Japan.

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Recently, research has focused on the effects of the concurrence of multimodal signals and their efficacy and meaning. We observed an unreported behaviour, a ventro-ventral "rocking-embrace" gesture that is always accompanied by lip smacking as the facial expression and sometimes by a girney call, in wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) living in Kinkazan Island, northern Japan. This study examined the form and contexts of the occurrence of such multimodal signals in order to elucidate its functions. Eighty-eight cases of rocking embrace were recorded during 183h of observation over 22days. Adult females were involved in all of the cases. Of the 71 cases between adult females in which behaviours prior to the rocking embrace could be identified, 13 cases were allogrooming interruptions, 11 were aggression, and 42 were approaches, most of which occurred between non-kin grooming partners. The rocking embrace was often followed by allogrooming. This suggests that rocking embraces occur under stressful conditions and may function to reduce tensions. This conclusion is consistent with the contexts and functions of lip smacking and girneys shown in previous studies. In contrast with lip smacking and girneys, neither a rocking embrace nor a ventro-ventral embrace (without rocking) between anoestrous adult females has been previously shown in Japanese macaques. In other macaque species, however, the latter gesture is often observed as an affiliative behaviour that immediately follows conflict; it functions to reconcile or as a greeting when it occurs immediately after an approach. Rocking embraces among the Kinkazan macaques occur in contexts similar to, and have a similar function to, the ancestral gesture of ventro-ventral embracing (which is hidden in Japanese macaques) and the ancestral display of lip smacking (which is still observed in Japanese macaques). The ventro-ventral embrace as a tactile signal might have been hidden since it was made redundant by the visual signal of lip smacking in ancestral macaques.


  • Primates

    Primates 55(2), 327-335, 2014-04-01

    Springer Japan


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