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Supplementary Material for: A Comparison of Focal and Opportunistic Sampling Methods when Studying Chimpanzee Facial and Gestural Communication

posted on 11.05.2021, 11:44 by Florkiewicz B.N., Campbell M.W.
Researchers frequently use focal individual sampling to study primate communication. Recent studies of primate gestures have shown that opportunistic sampling offers benefits not found in focal individual sampling, such as the collection of larger sample sizes. What is not known is whether the opportunistic method is biased towards certain signal types or signalers. Our goal was to assess the validity of the opportunistic method by comparing focal individual sampling to opportunistic sampling of facial and gestural communication in a group of captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We compared: (1) the number of observed facial and gestural signals per signal type and (2) the number of observed facial and gestural signals produced by each signaler. Both methods identified facial signals, gesture signals, and gesture signalers at similar relative rates, but the opportunistic sampling method yielded a more even distribution of signalers and signal types than the focal individual sampling method. In addition, the opportunistic sampling method resulted in larger sample sizes for both facial and gestural communication. However, the opportunistic method did not allow us to calculate the signals per time for each individual, which is easily done with the focal individual method. These results suggest that the opportunistic sampling method is (1) comparable to the focal individual sampling method in multiple important measures, (2) associated with additional sampling benefits, and (3) limited in measuring some variables. Thus, we recommend that future studies use a mixed-methods approach, as focal individual and opportunistic sampling have distinct strengths that complement each other’s limitations.