5 Pages

Grooming Behavior of Primates

Grooming is a behavior that has been observed widely across the animal kingdom. Across many taxa, its role in the maintenance of the external body surface is clear. In the Order Primates, the time spent grooming, its form, and its function vary from species to species (for reviews see Goosen, 1987; Sparks, 1969). Grooming refers to the inspection and manipulation of the hair, skin, or oral structures with the hands or mouth. When directed to the animal’s own body, it is called self-grooming or autogrooming, whereas when directed to another’s body, it is called so­ cial grooming or allogrooming. When two ani­ mals groom each other simultaneously, it is re­ ferred to as mutual grooming. In many primate species, social grooming has come to be recog­ nized as having important social functions, over and above the hygienic ones typically assumed for self-grooming. In the earliest studies of pri­ mate behavior, the focus of attention was on the form of grooming behavior. As the social signifi­ cance of social grooming became clear, the re­ search on grooming neglected self-grooming behavior and focused on the distribution of grooming among group members, virtually ig­ noring the question of form. More recently re­ newed attention has been paid to the form of grooming, with more sophisticated analyses emphasizing the social and hygienic functions of the different aspects of this important primate behavior.