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However despotic a social group may be, managing conflicts of interest is crucial to preserve group living benefits, mainly based on cooperation. In fact, in despotic groups post-conflict management via reconciliation (the first post-conflict reunion between former opponents) can occur, even if at variable levels. In the despotic Lemur catta reconciliation was reported in one out of four captive groups. We used this species as a model to understand what variables influence the occurrence of the reconciliation in despotic groups. We analyzed 2339 PC-MC collected on eight groups (five in the Berenty forest, Madagascar; three hosted at the Pistoia Zoo, Italy). Since Lemur catta is characterized by rigid female dominance but show female-female coalitionary support, we expected to find reconciliation in the wild, other than in captivity. Consistently, we found the phenomenon to be present in one captive group and two wild groups, thus providing the first evidence of the presence of reconciliation in wild Lemur catta. Being this species a seasonal breeder (with mating occurring once a year), we expected that the season more than other variables (wild/captivity setting, rank, or individual features) would influence reconciliation levels. Via GLMM we found that the season was indeed the only variable significantly explaining reconciliation rates, lowest during mating and highest during the pregnancy period. We posit that reconciliation can be present in despotic species but not when the advantages of intra-group cooperation are annihilated by competition, as it occurs in seasonal breeders when reproduction is at stake. By comparing our results with literature, we conclude that in despotic social groups in which coalitions are observed, the right question is not if but when reconciliation can be present.
Data analysed for this study
The data entered in the GLMM and to compare attracted versus dispersed pairs are provided here.