Social behaviour in primates: Grooming

Grooming in primates mainly serves hygiene purposes as well as strengthening social structures. In the following blog post you can find further information about the function of grooming.


Many animals with a social structure are grooming each other's fur – an activity that is known to be social and is done conjointly. With primates, the mutual fur-care serves two essential goals; the hygiene and the care of social ties.

Green monkeys spend several hours a day removing parasites, dirt and other impurities from each other's fur. Studies have shown that the animals spend a lot of time cleaning the other monkey's fur, especially in places that are difficult to reach. In addition, the mutual coat care has a positive effect on the health of the animals.

In the social sphere, fur care plays an important role in building and maintaining alliances, couple loyalty, hierarchical structures, sharing resources, supporting conflicts and protecting young animals. Studies have shown that oxytocin (the "trust hormone") is involved in the formation of these social bonds. An increased level of oxytocin during grooming is said to help build and maintain relationships with many individuals over time.


Observations have shown that some animals have to take care of the fur of others in order to enjoy the benefits of fur care themselves. In addition, the dominant animals receive the greatest attention which is hierarchically conditioned.

Young animals develop a strong attachment to female relatives, which persists into adulthood. The grooming causes the distribution of endorphins which causes joy and relaxation. I spent some time watching a mother groom her offspring. In the beginning I expected the young animal to jump up and run away to play with the other young roughnecks that ran around us. However, he seemed to enjoy the massage through and through.


"Fur care" in human beings

There are also cases of mutual care in humans. Human "grooming" is often associated with increased satisfaction in the relationship, more trust and the experience of family affection in childhood. Consensual carers are perceived as more in love and are both more prescribed to their parents and are better parents themselves. Mutual care also plays an important role in the relationship between couples. It could even be said that entire industries have developed through mutual care. Especially hairdressers and personal tailors are a good example.

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