Behavioral and Endocrine Responses in Male Marmosets to the Establishment of Multimale Breeding Groups: Evidence for Non-monopolizing Facultative Polyandry

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Studies of wild callitrichids provide conflicting evidence regarding polyandrous groups. One perspective supports a monopolizing breeding strategy on the part of one male, while the alternative perspective suggests that polyandry does not lead to a breeding monopoly. We tested the hypotheses in male marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii) with 5 polyandrous groups composed of related/familiar males as our attempts to establish polyandrous groups of unrelated/familiar males failed. We monitored male social and sexual behavior and urinary testosterone (T) and cortisol (CORT) across the first 80 days of group formation and contrasted them with similar measures in males housed in monogamous groups. We also examined the same measures across the females' ovulatory cycles for polyandrous males. We found little evidence that males in polyandrous groups exercised a mating monopoly over the female and no evidence for overt competition between polyandrous males. We found 2 behavioral differences: polyandrous males were less often in proximity and copulated more often with the female than monogamous males did. Our findings suggest that the males in newly-formed groups of marmosets do not monopolize breeding and social behavior with the female. This appears to be the case for 3 reasons. First, males may use sperm competition rather than overt competition. Secondly, it may take longer for relationships to develop between the female and the males in polyandrous groups versus in monogamous groups. Thirdly, the cost of infant care is sufficiently high to demand that group members get along when groups are small and reproductive benefits are shared.

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