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1.  Is male rhesus macaque red color ornamentation attractive to females? 
Behavioral ecology and sociobiology  2014;68(7):1215-1224.
Male sexually-selected traits can evolve through different mechanisms: conspicuous and colorful ornaments usually evolve through inter-sexual selection, while weapons usually evolve through intra-sexual selection. Male ornaments are rare among mammals in comparison to birds, leading to the notion that female mate choice generally plays little role in trait evolution in this taxon. Supporting this view, when ornaments are present in mammals they typically indicate social status and are products of male-male competition. This general mammalian pattern, however, may not apply to rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). Males of this species display conspicuous skin coloration, but this expression is not correlated to dominance rank, and is therefore unlikely to have evolved due to male-male competition. Here, we investigate whether male color expression influences female proceptivity towards males in the Cayo Santiago free-ranging rhesus macaque population. We collected face images of 24 adult males varying in dominance rank and age at the peak of the mating season, and modeled these to rhesus macaque visual perception. We also recorded female socio-sexual behaviors towards these males. Results show that dark red males received more sexual solicitations, by more females, than pale pink ones. Together with previous results, our study suggests that male color ornaments are more likely to be a product of inter- rather than intra-sexual selection. This may especially be the case in rhesus macaques due to the particular characteristics of male-male competition in this species.
doi:10.1007/s00265-014-1732-9
PMCID: PMC4167843  PMID: 25246728
Ornaments; sexual selection; female mate choice; sexual skin; color; anthropoid primates
2.  Effect of mating activity and dominance rank on male masturbation among free-ranging male rhesus macaques 
Ethology : formerly Zeitschrift fur Tierpsychologie  2013;119(11):10.1111/eth.12146.
The adaptive function of male masturbation is still poorly understood, despite its high prevalence in humans and other animals. In non-human primates, male masturbation is most frequent among anthropoid monkeys and apes living in multimale-multifemale groups with a promiscuous mating system. In these species, male masturbation may be a non-functional by-product of high sexual arousal or be adaptive by providing advantages in terms of sperm competition or by decreasing the risk of sexually transmitted infections. We investigated the possible functional significance of male masturbation using behavioral data collected on 21 free-ranging male rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) at the peak of the mating season. We found some evidence that masturbation is linked to low mating opportunities: regardless of rank, males were most likely to be observed masturbating on days in which they were not observed mating, and lower-ranking males mated less and tended to masturbate more frequently than higher-ranking males. These results echo the findings obtained for two other species of macaques, but contrast those obtained in red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius) and Cape ground squirrels (Xerus inauris). Interestingly, however, male masturbation events ended with ejaculation in only 15% of the observed masturbation time, suggesting that new hypotheses are needed to explain masturbation in this species. More studies are needed to establish whether male masturbation is adaptive and whether it serves similar or different functions in different sexually promiscuous species.
doi:10.1111/eth.12146
PMCID: PMC3810986  PMID: 24187414
Masturbation; auto-erotism; male-male competition; sexually-transmitted disease; sexual arousal; mating success; dominance rank; rhesus macaques
3.  SOCIAL TOLERANCE IN A DESPOTIC PRIMATE: CO-FEEDING BETWEEN CONSORTSHIP PARTNERS IN RHESUS MACAQUES 
Food-sharing among non-kin— one of the most fascinating cooperative behaviors in humans— is not widespread in non-human primates. Over the past few years, a large body of work has investigated the contexts in which primates cooperate and share food with unrelated individuals. This work has successfully demonstrated that species-specific differences in temperament constrain the extent to which food-sharing emerges in experimental situations, with despotic species being less likely to share food than tolerant ones. However, little experimental work has examined the contexts that promote food-sharing and cooperation within a species. Here, we examine whether one salient reproductive context—the consortship dyad— can allow the necessary social tolerance for co-feeding to emerge in an extremely despotic species, the rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta). We gave naturally formed male-female rhesus macaque pairs access to a monopolizable food site in the free-ranging population at Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. Using this method, we were able to show that tolerated co-feeding between unrelated adults can take place in this despotic species. Specifically, our results show that consort pairs co-fed at the experimental food site more than non-consort control pairs, leading females to obtain more food in this context. These results suggest that co-feeding is possible even in the most despotic of primate species, but perhaps only in contexts that specifically promote the necessary social tolerance. Researchers might profit from exploring whether other kinds of within-species contexts could also generate cooperative behaviors.
doi:10.1002/ajpa.22043
PMCID: PMC4167600  PMID: 22415860
Social tolerance; food-sharing; sexual consortships; non-human primates
4.  Do males time their mate-guarding effort with the fertile phase in order to secure fertilisation in Cayo Santiago rhesus macaques? 
Hormones and behavior  2012;61(5):696-705.
In contrast to most mammalian species, female sexual activity is not limited to the fertile phase of the ovarian cycle in anthropoid primates, which has long been proposed to conceal the timing of ovulation to males. It is now generally believed that females are still most attractive during the fertile phase, leading to high-ranking males successfully mate-guarding them specifically during this period. While studies conducted in species exhibiting exaggerated sexual swellings (probabilistic signal of the fertile phase) have generally supported this hypothesis, mixed support comes from others. Here, we investigated whether high-ranking males timed mate-guarding effort towards female fertile phases in rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta). In this species, adult females do not exhibit sexual swellings, but undergo facial skin colour variation, an alternative oestrogens-dependent graded-signal of female reproductive status. We collected behavioural, hormonal and genetic paternity data during two mating seasons for one group of the free-ranging population of Cayo Santiago. Our results show that mate-guarding by top-ranking males did not completely cover the entire female fertile phase and that this tactic accounted for only 30-40% of all fertilisations observed. Males tended to prolong mate-guarding into the luteal phase (null probability of fertilisation), which mirrors the pattern of male attraction to female facial colour reported in an earlier study. These findings suggest that males may have limited knowledge regarding the exact timing of females’ fertile phase in rhesus macaques, which presumably allows females to gain more control over reproduction relative to other anthropoid primate species.
doi:10.1016/j.yhbeh.2012.03.003
PMCID: PMC3559102  PMID: 22449655
Prolonged sexual receptivity; concealed ovulation; mate-guarding; fecal steroids; reproductive strategies; fertile phase; genetic paternity analysis; primates; rhesus macaques
5.  Color signal information content and the eye of the beholder: a case study in the rhesus macaque 
Behavioral Ecology  2010;21(4):739-746.
Animal coloration has provided many classical examples of both natural and sexual selection. Methods to study color signals range from human assessment to models of receiver vision, with objective measurements commonly involving spectrometry or digital photography. However, signal assessment by a receiver is not objective but linked to receiver perception. Here, we use standardized digital photographs of female rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) face and hindquarter regions, combined with estimates of the timing of the female fertile phase, to assess how color varies with respect to this timing. We compare objective color measures (camera sensor responses) with models of rhesus vision (retinal receptor stimulation and visual discriminability). Due to differences in spectral separation between camera sensors and rhesus receptors, camera measures overestimated color variation and underestimated luminance variation compared with rhesus macaques. Consequently, objective digital camera measurements can produce statistically significant relationships that are probably undetectable to rhesus macaques, and hence biologically irrelevant, while missing variation in the measure that may be relevant. Discrimination modeling provided results that were most meaningful (as they were directly related to receiver perception) and were easiest to relate to underlying physiology. Further, this gave new insight into the function of such signals, revealing perceptually salient signal luminance changes outside of the fertile phase that could potentially enhance paternity confusion. Our study demonstrates how, even for species with similar visual systems to humans, models of vision may provide more accurate and meaningful information on the form and function of visual signals than objective color measures do.
doi:10.1093/beheco/arq047
PMCID: PMC2892627  PMID: 22475874
color signaling; communication; receiver perception; visual discrimination threshold modeling
6.  Familiarity affects the assessment of female facial signals of fertility by free-ranging male rhesus macaques 
Animals signal their reproductive status in a range of sensory modalities. Highly social animals, such as primates, have access not only to such signals, but also to prior experience of other group members. Whether this experience affects how animals interpret reproductive signals is unknown. Here, we explore whether familiarity with a specific female affects a male's ability to assess that female's reproductive signals. We used a preferential looking procedure to assess signal discrimination in free-ranging rhesus macaques, a species in which female facial luminance covaries with reproductive status. We collected images of female faces throughout the reproductive cycle, and using faecal hormone analysis to determine ovulation, categorized images as coming from a female's pre-fertile, ovulating, or post-fertile period. We printed colour-calibrated stimuli of these faces, reproducing stimuli perceptually the same in colour and luminance to the original appearance of females. These images were presented to males who were either unfamiliar or familiar with stimuli females. Overall, males distinguished ovulatory from pre-ovulatory faces. However, a significant proportion of males did so only among males familiar with stimuli females. These experiments demonstrate that familiarity may increase a receiver's ability to use a social partner's signals to discern their reproductive status.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.0052
PMCID: PMC3177625  PMID: 21471112
familiarity; experience; cognition; reproductive signals; ovulation; discrimination
7.  Testing the priority-of-access model in a seasonally breeding primate species 
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology  2011;65(8):1615-1627.
In mammals, when females are clumped in space, male access to receptive females is usually determined by a dominance hierarchy based on fighting ability. In polygynandrous primates, as opposed to most mammalian species, the strength of the relationship between male social status and reproductive success varies greatly. It has been proposed that the degree to which paternity is determined by male rank decreases with increasing female reproductive synchrony. The priority-of-access model (PoA) predicts male reproductive success based on female synchrony and male dominance rank. To date, most tests of the PoA using paternity data involved nonseasonally breeding species. Here, we examine whether the PoA explains the relatively low reproductive skew in relation to dominance rank reported in the rhesus macaque, a strictly seasonal species. We collected behavioral, genetic, and hormonal data on one group of the free-ranging population on Cayo Santiago (Puerto Rico) for 2 years. The PoA correctly predicted the steepness of male reproductive skew, but not its relationship to male dominance: the most successful sire, fathering one third of the infants, was high but not top ranking. In contrast, mating success was not significantly skewed, suggesting that other mechanisms than social status contributed to male reproductive success. Dominance may be less important for paternity in rhesus macaques than in other primate species because it is reached through queuing rather than contest, leading to alpha males not necessarily being the strongest or most attractive male. More work is needed to fully elucidate the mechanisms determining paternity in rhesus macaques.
doi:10.1007/s00265-011-1172-8
PMCID: PMC3134767  PMID: 21874084
Dominance; Reproductive skew; Mating skew; Priority-of-access model; Genetic paternity analysis; Primates; Rhesus macaques

Results 1-7 (7)