Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-25T01:47:15.660Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Experimentally evaluating the function of self-directed behaviour in two adult mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2023

A Leeds*
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, OH 44109, USA Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
KE Lukas
Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, 3900 Wildlife Way, Cleveland, OH 44109, USA Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44106, USA
* Contact for correspondence and requests for reprints:


Given the difficulties of conducting regular endocrine and veterinary assessments of animals, behavioural observations are often the most commonly used tool to assess the welfare of animals in human care. Behavioural measures, inexpensive and convenient to collect, also have their challenges, such as ensuring the behaviours of interest are reliable indicators of an animal's internal state. Welfare assessments include both positive and negative indicators, and a commonly used indicator of negative welfare is self-directed behaviour (SDB). SDB has been described as a behavioural indicator of stress through observation and experimentation; however, this pattern is not universal despite assumptions otherwise. The purpose of this study was to experimentally evaluate the use of SDB as an indicator of negative welfare in mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx) with the goal of understanding the function of SDB in relation to stress. Using a touchscreen-mediated cognitive task, the mandrills were observed to self-scratch significantly more often during incorrect than correct trials; however, rates of SDB did not vary between increasingly difficult testing conditions. The mandrills had individual variation in their use of body-shakes and yawns under negative and positive conditions that mirror similar variation observed in other primates. This study provides experimental evidence that self-scratching in mandrills can be used as a behavioural indicator of anxiety and that welfare assessments for animals in human care need to account not only for species’ differences, but also for individual differences.

Research Article
© 2018 Universities Federation for Animal Welfare

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Baker, KC and Aureli, F 1997 Behavioural indicators of anxiety: An empirical test in chimpanzees. Behaviour 134: 10311050. Scholar
Barros, M, Boere, V, Huston, JP and Tomaz, C 2000 Measuring fear and anxiety in the marmoset (Callithrix penicillata) with a novel predator confrontation model: Effects of diazepam. Behavioural Brain Research 108: 205211. ScholarPubMed
Caperos, JM, Sanchez, S, Palaez, F, Fidalgo, A and Morcillo, A 2011 The effect of crowding on the social behavior of the cooperatively breeding cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). International Journal of Primatology 32: 11791189. Scholar
Castles, DL, Whiten, A and Aureli, F 1999 Social anxiety, relationships and self-directed behaviour among wild female olive baboons. Animal Behaviour 58: 12071215. ScholarPubMed
Chelluri, GI, Ross, SR and Wagner, KE 2013 Behavioral cor-relates and welfare implications of informal interactions between caretakers and zoo-housed chimpanzees and gorillas. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 147: 306315. Scholar
Cockrem, JF 2013 Individual variation in glucocorticoid stress responses in animals. General and Comparative Endocrinology 181:4558. ScholarPubMed
Colgrave, N, Engel, J and Plowman, AB 2006 Randomization tests. In: Plowman, AB (ed) Zoo Research Guidelines: Statistics for Typical Zoo Datasets pp 716. BIAZA: London, UKGoogle Scholar
Cordoni, G and Palagi, E 2007 Response of captive lowland goril-las (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) to different housing conditions: Testing the aggression-density and coping models. Journal of Comparative Psychology 121: 171180. ScholarPubMed
Duboscq, J, Romano, V, Sueur, C and MacIntosh, AJJ 2016 Scratch that itch: Revisiting links between self-directed behaviour and parasitological, social and environmental factors in a free-ranging primate. Royal Society Open Science 3: 160571. Scholar
Elder, CM and Menzel, CR 2001 Dissociation of cortisol and behavioral indicators of stress in an orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) during a computerized task. Primates 42: 345357. Scholar
Herrelko, ES, Buchanan-Smith, HM and Vick, SJ 2015 Perception of available space during chimpanzee introductions: Number of accessible areas is more important than enclosure size. Zoo Biology 34: 397405. ScholarPubMed
Higham, JP, Maclarnon, AM, Heistermann, M, Ross, C and Semple, S 2009 Rates of self-directed behaviour and faecal glu-cocorticoid levels are not correlated in female wild olive baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis). Stress 12: 526532. Scholar
Judge, PG, Evans, DW, Schroepfer, KK and Gross, AC 2011 Perseveration on a reversal-learning task correlates with rates of self-directed behavior in nonhuman primates. Behavioural Brain Research 222: 5765. ScholarPubMed
Judge, PG, Griffaton, NS and Fincke, AM 2006 Conflict man-agement by hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) during crowding: A tension-reduction strategy. American Journal of Primatology 68: 9931006. Scholar
Kato, Y, Gokan, H, Oh-Nishi, A, Suhara, T, Watanabe, S and Minamimoto, T 2014 Vocalizations associated with anxiety and fear in the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). Behavioural Brain Research 275: 4352. ScholarPubMed
Koolhaas, JM, Bartolomucci, A, Buwalda, B, de Boer, SF, Flügge, G, Korte, SM, Meerlo, P, Murison, R, Olivier, B, Palanza, P, Richter-Levin, G, Sgoifo, A, Steimer, T, Stiedl, O, van Dijk, G, Wöhr, M and Fuchs, E 2011 Stress revisited: A critical evaluation of the stress concept. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews 35:12911301. ScholarPubMed
Kranendonk, G and Schippers, EP 2014 A pilot study on the effects of a change in behavioural management on the behaviour of captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Applied Animal Behaviour Science 160: 127137. Scholar
Leavens, DA, Aureli, F, Hopkins, WD and Hyatt, CW 2001 Effects of cognitive challenges on self-directed behaviors by chim-panzees (Pan troglodytes). American Journal of Primatology 55: 114. Scholar
Leone, A, Ferrari, PF and Palagi, E 2014 Different yawns, dif-ferent functions? Testing social hypotheses on spontaneous yawning in Theropithecus gelada. Science Reports 4: 4010. Scholar
Maestripieri, D, Schino, G, Aureli, F and Troisi, A 1992 A modest proposal: Displacement activities as an indicator of emotions in primates. Animal Behaviour 44: 967979. Scholar
Neal, SJ and Caine, NG 2016 Scratching under positive and negative arousal in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). American Journal of Primatology 78: 216226. ScholarPubMed
Pearson, BL, Reeder, DM and Judge, PG 2015 Crowding increases salivary cortisol but not self-directed behavior in captive baboons. American Journal of Primatology 77: 462467. Scholar
Peignot, P, Jankowski, F and Anderson, JR 2004 On self-scratching in captive mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Folia Primatologica 75: 160164. ScholarPubMed
Provine, RR, Hamernik, HB and Curchack, BC 1987 Yawning: Relation to sleeping and stretching in humans. Ethology 76: 152160. Scholar
Romero, T, Colmenares, F and Aureli, F 2009 Testing the function of reconciliation and third-party affiliation in hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadrys hamadryas). American Journal of Primatology 71: 6069. Scholar
Ross, SR, Wagner, KE, Schapiro, SJ and Hau, J 2010 Ape behavior in two alternating environments: Comparing exhibit and short-term holding areas. American Journal of Primatology 72: 951959. ScholarPubMed
Schino, G and Marini, C 2012 Self-protective function of post-conflict bystander affiliation in mandrills. PLoS One 7: e38936. ScholarPubMed
Schino, G, Perretta, G, Taglioni, AM, Monaco, V and Troisi, A 1996 Primate displacement activities as an ethopharmacological model of anxiety. Anxiety 2: 186191.<186::AID-ANXI5>3.0.CO;2-M3.0.CO;2-M>CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Setchell, JM and Wickings, J 2005 Dominance, status signals and coloration in male mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Ethology 111:2550. Scholar
Wagner, KE, Hopper, LM and Ross, SR 2016 Asymmetries in the production of self-directed behavior by chimpanzees and gorillas during a computerized cognitive test. Animal Cognition 19:343350. ScholarPubMed
Yamanashi, Y and Matsuzawa, T 2010 Emotional conse-quences when chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) face challenges: Individual differences in self-directed behaviours during cognitive tasks. Animal Welfare 19: 2530CrossRefGoogle Scholar