Social plasticity, the adjustment of social behavioral expression to the nuances of daily life, is an important facet of primate communication because it is a response to the selective pressures that make one form of communication more advantageous over another when utilized in specific social situations (Oliveira 2012). In this study examining social plasticity of orangutan communication as a function of sex, I compare the time budgets of communicative behaviors among female Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) at the Lowry Park Zoo, Florida. Sex-based social plasticity was defined as a behavioral difference between same-sex and opposite-sex interactions. Data collection included 65 hours of video, recorded observations, and frame-by-frame analysis using focal animal sampling. Communicative behavior differed significantly between same-sex and opposite-sex interactions (χ 2=35.13, df=1, p<0.01). When interacting with same-sex conspecifics, females spent most of their time utilizing tactile communication (86.8%), followed by visual communication (13.2%). When interacting with males, females spent most of their time utilizing visual communication (57.2%), followed by tactile communication (42.8%). No significant auditory communication was observed (<0.1%). I conclude that female orangutan communication exhibits sex-based social plasticity. I propose that this plasticity is a behavioral adaptation resulting from sex-specific social selective pressures.
"Analysis of Intraspecific Communication Plasticity in Captive Female Orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus),"
Field Notes: A Journal of Collegiate Anthropology: Vol. 8
, Article 9.
Available at: https://dc.uwm.edu/fieldnotes/vol8/iss1/9