Foraging networks and social tolerance in a cooperatively breeding primate (Callithrix jacchus)

María Fernanda De la Fuente, Cédric Sueur, Paul A. Garber, Júlio César Bicca-Marques, Antonio Souto, Nicola Schiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within-group competition over food resources can be a major cost of social living. In the wild, foragers are confronted with social (e.g. hierarchical rank) and ecological (e.g. food availability and distribution) challenges that affect their foraging decisions and feeding success. Exhibiting prosocial behaviours, such as tolerance at feeding sites, can benefit group members by developing affiliative social relationships, enhancing access to resources and maximizing fitness. We examined social tolerance at feeding sites in Callithrix jacchus, a cooperatively breeding primate species. We investigated the set of social (rank, age and sex) and ecological (food availability) factors that influence the structure and dynamics of within-group foraging association networks. We designed and conducted an experimental field study of four wild groups of common marmosets in which we controlled food distribution (concentrated or scattered) and productivity (high, medium or low food rewards). Then, we used social network analyses to assess the number and strength of foraging associations among group members, their effects on individual food consumption, and whether recent experiences with conspecifics during foraging affected subsequent associations. Overall, common marmoset foraging association networks were cohesive, as group members jointly occupied feeding sites. The number and strength of associations varied depending on the ecological context. Associations were stronger during conditions in which food was concentrated at a single site. Individuals obtained greater access to food resources when sharing a feeding site with conspecifics, but once a food item was obtained, the forager moved to a nearby tree and consumed it away from others. Additionally, the strength of previous foraging associations and subsequent levels of social tolerance at feeding sites were positively related, a relationship compatible with the ability of memorizing associations over time and recalling the information in future decision-making. In sum, marmosets adjusted their partner choices and the strength of foraging associations in response to food availability. They exhibited increased social tolerance at feeding sites during conditions in which opportunities for contest competition were expected to be greatest. These cooperative breeding primates appear to mutually benefit by maintaining cohesive and strong affiliative relationships, and by increasing opportunities for coordinated behaviour and offspring survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-153
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022


  • associations
  • common marmoset
  • field experiment
  • group cohesion
  • social network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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