Mate-Guarding as a Male Reproductive Tactic inPropithecus verreauxi

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Sexual selection theory predicts that in group-living mammals, male reproductive tactics can lead to high reproductive skew in favor of dominant individuals. In sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi), a group-living primate with extremely seasonal reproduction, male reproductive success is highly skewed because dominant males sire almost all offspring despite a tendency toward an even adult group sex ratio. To understand the underlying behavioral mechanism resulting in this rank-related reproductive skew in male sifakas, we studied mate-guarding as a potential reproductive tactic. Behavioral observations of dominant males and adult females in combination with hormonal determination of timing of female receptivity in 9 groups at Kirindy Forest revealed that dominant males spent more time in proximity to females when they were receptive and were responsible for the maintenance of this proximity. Results also indicated that monopolization of receptive females was facilitated by both estrous asynchrony within groups and by the ability of dominant males to obtain olfactory cues as to the timing of female receptivity. Although dominant males engaging in mate-guarding are expected to experience various costs, there was no evidence for decreased foraging behavior and only a trend toward increased aggression between dominant and subordinate non-natal males within groups. Our results are in accordance with the hypothesis that dominant males use mate-guarding to monopolize receptive females and that it is one proximate mechanism that contributes to the high reproductive skew observed within the population of male sifakas at Kirindy.

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