Lara Narbona Sabaté

Research interests

Enforcement mechanisms of cooperation in wild chimpanzees

Chimpanzees live in gregarious groups with a defined membership, an adaptation that benefits from cooperation and is hindered by competition. Thus, cooperation in chimpanzees is pervasive in their natural social behaviour, from grooming and food-sharing, to patrolling and collective hunting. Hence, cooperation is not only present on large group-level activities, but also in smaller-scale daily interactions, for example when chimpanzees comply when hearing other individuals producing 'travel hoos' (by travelling rather than resting). This cooperation can be unenforced (if it is a win-win situation) or enforced through partner control mechanisms (if one benefits from the interaction but the other(s) do not). Different mechanisms have been proposed to enforce cooperation over competition. My PhD will focus on indirect reciprocity, when cooperation is enforced by a bystander of the cooperative interaction, in wild chimpanzees of the Budongo forest, Uganda. In particular, I will explore whether bystanders’ communicative behaviours during a third-party cooperative interaction can be considered as a form of indirect reciprocity.

My research project is co-supervised by Prof Klaus Zuberbühler and Prof Josep Call (University of St Andrews). Previously, I have worked on black-fronted titi monkeys' (Callicebus nigrifrons) alarm system, the ontogeny of multimodal communication in wild chimpanzees and on the vocal communication of white-faced capuchins (Cebus imitator).



2022. Narbona Sabaté, L., Mesbahi, G., Dezecache, G., Cäsar, C., Zuberbühler, K., & Berthet, M. Animal linguistics in the making: the Urgency Principle and titi monkeys’ alarm system. Ethology Ecology & Evolution, 34(3), 378-394. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03949370.2021

PhD student



Twitter: @laranarbona


Bureau B25, bâtiment G

Université de Neuchâtel

Institut de Biologie

Cognition Comparée

Rue Emile-Argand 11

2000 Neuchâtel