Social management of laboratory rhesus macaques housed in large groups using a network approach: A review

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11 Scopus citations


Biomedical facilities across the nation and worldwide aim to develop cost-effective methods for the reproductive management of macaque breeding groups, typically by housing macaques in large, multi-male multi-female social groups that provide monkey subjects for research as well as appropriate socialization for their psychological well-being. One of the most difficult problems in managing socially housed macaques is their propensity for deleterious aggression. From a management perspective, deleterious aggression (as opposed to less intense aggression that serves to regulate social relationships) is undoubtedly the most problematic behavior observed in group-housed macaques, which can readily escalate to the degree that it causes social instability, increases serious physical trauma leading to group dissolution, and reduces psychological well-being. Thus for both welfare and other management reasons, aggression among rhesus macaques at primate centers and facilities needs to be addressed with a more proactive approach.Management strategies need to be instituted that maximize social housing while also reducing problematic social aggression due to instability using efficacious methods for detection and prevention in the most cost effective manner. Herein we review a new proactive approach using social network analysis to assess and predict deleterious aggression in macaque groups. We discovered three major pathways leading to instability, such as unusually high rates and severity of trauma and social relocations.These pathways are linked either directly or indirectly to network structure in rhesus macaque societies. We define these pathways according to the key intrinsic and extrinsic variables (e.g., demographic, genetic or social factors) that influence network and behavioral measures of stability (see Fig. 1). They are: (1) presence of natal males, (2) matrilineal genetic fragmentation, and (3) the power structure and conflict policing behavior supported by this power structure. We discuss how these three major pathways leading to greater understanding and predictability of deleterious aggression in macaque social groups.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBehavioural Processes
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2017


  • Aggression
  • Macaques
  • Social collapse
  • Social network analysis
  • Social stability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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