Concealed Fertility and Extended Female Sexuality in a Non-Human Primate (Macaca assamensis)
Fürtbauer, Ines ; Heistermann, Michael ; Schülke, Oliver ; Ostner, Julia Vitzthum, Virginia J. (Eds.)
Citable Link (URL):http://resolver.sub.uni-goettingen.de/purl?gs-1/8336
In numerous primates living in mixed-sex groups, females display probabilistic cues of fertility to simultaneously concentrate paternity to dominant males while diluting it amongst others as a means to reduce the risk of infanticide and to increase male care for offspring. A few species, however, lack these cues and potentially conceal fertility from males; yet, to date, little is known about mating patterns and their underlying proximate mechanisms in such species. Here, we investigated mating activity and sexual consortships relative to female reproductive state in wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis), a species where females lack prominent anogenital swellings and copulation calls. During two mating seasons (2837 contact hours) we recorded sexual and social behaviors, sexual consortships, and collected 1178 fecal samples (n = 15 females) which were analyzed for progestogen concentrations to assess female reproductive state and to determine the timing of ovulation and conception. Although mostly conceiving in their first ovarian cycle, females were sexually receptive throughout the entire 4-month mating season, and within-cycle mating frequencies were not increased during fertile phases. Dominant males did not monopolize fertile matings, and consortships by high-ranking males lasted for long periods, which were not exclusively linked to female fertile phases. Furthermore, females copulated promiscuously but not randomly, i.e. for almost every female, matings were concentrated to a certain male, irrespective of male rank. Collectively, we demonstrate that fertility is undisclosed to males. The extreme extended female sexuality facilitated by concealed fertility may allow females to create differentiated mating relationships within a promiscuous mating system. Our study provides important new insight into the plasticity of female sexuality in non-human primates.
The study was supported by funds from the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science to Julia Ostner used to conduct the experiments and from the German Initiative of Excellence to Georg August University Go¨ ttingen for data analyses and writing of the paper