Document Type



Master of Science


Biology, Animal Behavior

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Zuleyma Tang-Martinez, Ph.D.


Stanton Braude

Robert W. Sussman

George Taylor


Efforts to understand the variation in primate social systems and the underlying social interactions have focused on both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. In the socioecological model, food distribution and abundance have been argued to be the primary influences on the social relationships and resulting social organization of primate groups. In the first part of this study, I examined the relationship of food and three additional factors (kinship, proximity, previous agonism) with patterns of affiliative and agonistic interactions in two semi-free ranging ringtailed lemur, , social groups (n=14) at Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC. Affiliation and high intensity agonism patterns (although not low intensity agonism) were best explained by kinship. Proximity also explained affiliation patterns but did not explain agonism. Food resources and previous agonism did not convincingly relate to social behavior patterns. Different intensities of agonism have different patterns and should be analyzed individually. In the second part of this study, I examined the relationship between food and the overall social organization of a group. I tested two hypotheses regarding the social organization, defined here by the dominance hierarchy, of these same two social groups: 1) The characteristics of the food resource do not dictate social organization. 2) Social organization is equally or better explained by inter-individual distance than by resource competition. The characteristics of the food source could but did not necessarily influence social organization. Furthermore, close proximity contexts better explained the rank ordering of individuals in the overall dominance hierarchy than did food-oriented contexts, which suggests that the apparent influence of food on social organization is potentially an indirect effect of low inter-individual distance. Collectively, these findings indicate that food resources did not dictate social behavior patterns in this species, nor is it the most direct explanation for overall social organization. The socioecological model's attention to food-related aggression may have distracted us from considering the influences of inter-individual distance and kinship within groups.

Additional Files

Sbeglia_Appendix_I_2009.pdf (304 kB)
Sbeglia_Appendix_II_2009.pdf (239 kB)