Reciprocal allogrooming in wild impala lambs

Michael S. Mooring, Benjamin Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Adult impala engage in a form of reciprocal allogrooming distinguished by a high degree of reciprocity and lack of influence of dominance or relatedness on partner preference or distribution of grooming between partners. A previous study on reciprocal allogrooming of captive newborn impala lambs in a zoological park found that the allogrooming emerged as early as the first week after birth and was identical in structure and reciprocity to allogrooming in adults. Because these findings of apparently unique allogrooming behavior of newborn impala could have been a reflection of the effects of being born and raised in a small, stable captive herd, it was necessary to investigate reciprocal allogrooming in newborn impala in the wild. The emergence, reciprocity, rate, and partner distribution of reciprocal allogrooming in wild newborn impala were observed at two study sites: a national park in Zimbabwe and a game farm in South Africa. Maternal one-way grooming between mother and newborn emerged as distinct from reciprocal allogrooming and rapidly declined after week 1 postpartum. Reciprocal allogrooming by lambs was first seen between 5 and 8 d postpartum, and as soon as the behavior occurred it was the same basic pattern as seen in adult impala. The reciprocity index for lambs was near 0.5, indicating that lambs delivered as much grooming during an encounter as the partner. Lambs were grooming frequently with non-mother adults and other lambs by week 1 or 2; by week 3 and onward the allogrooming rate of lambs was more than twice that of their mothers, as predicted by the body size principle of the programmed grooming model. The strong predisposition of neonatal impala lambs to deliver reciprocal allogrooming as early as the first or second week postpartum would appear to reflect a genetically acquired adaptation to the threat of tick infestation in their natural habitat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)665-680
Number of pages16
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Reciprocal allogrooming in wild impala lambs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this