It has long been debated whether the mind consists of specialized and independently evolving modules, or whether and to what extent a general factor accounts for the variance in performance across different cognitive domains. In this study, we used a hierarchical Bayesian model to re-analyse individual level data collected on seven primate species (chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, gorillas, spider monkeys, brown capuchin monkeys and long-tailed macaques) across 17 tasks within four domains (inhibition, memory, transposition and support). Our modelling approach evidenced the existence of both a domain-specific factor and a species factor, each accounting for the same amount (17%) of the observed variance. In contrast, inter-individual differences played a minimal role. These results support the hypothesis that the mind of primates is (at least partially) modular, with domain-specific cognitive skills undergoing different evolutionary pressures in different species in response to specific ecological and social demands.
Animals facing seasonal variation in food availability experience selective pressures that favor behavioral adjustments such as migration, changes in activity, or shifts in diet. Eclectic omnivores such as many primates can process low-quality fallback food when preferred food is unavailable. Such dietary flexibility, however, may be insufficient to eliminate constraints on reproduction even for species that live in relatively permissive environments, such as moist tropical forests. Focusing on a forest-dwelling primate with a flexible diet (Cercopithecus mitis) we investigated whether females experience seasonal energetic stress and how it may relate to reproductive seasonality. We used fecal glucocorticoids (fGCs) as an indicator of energetic stress, controlling for the potentially confounding effects of social interactions and reproductive state. We modeled within-female fGC variation with General Linear Mixed Models, evaluating changes in feeding behavior and food availability as main effects. Regardless of reproductive state, fGCs increased when females shifted their diet towards fallback foods (mature leaves and other non-preferred items) and when they spent more time feeding, while fGCs decreased with feeding time on preferred items (insects, fruits, young leaves) and with the availability of young leaves. Changes in fruit availability had no general effects on fGCs, likely because fruits were sought out regardless of availability. As predicted, females in the energetically demanding stages of late pregnancy and early lactation showed greater increases in fGCs between periods of low versus high availability of fruits and young leaves than females in other reproductive states. Potential social stressors had no measurable effects on fGCs. Preliminary evidence suggests that seasonal energetic stress may affect the timing of infant independence from mothers and contribute to unusually long inter-birth intervals compared to closely related species of similar body size. Our findings highlight how the study of stress responses can provide insights into the proximate control of reproductive strategies.
The patterned way in which individuals allocate finite resources to various components of reproduction (e.g. mating effort, reproductive timing and parental investment) is described as a reproductive strategy. As energy is limited, trade-offs between and within aspects of reproductive strategies are expected. The first aim of this study was to derive aspects of reproductive strategies using complete reproductive histories from 718 parous Western Australian women. Factor analysis using a subset of these participants resulted in six factors that represented ‘short-term mating strategy’, ‘early onset of sexual activity’, ‘reproductive output’, ‘timing of childbearing’, ‘breastfeeding’, and ‘child spacing’. This factor structure was internally validated by replication using a second independent subset of the data. The second aim of this study examined trade-offs between aspects of reproductive strategies derived from aim one. Factor scores calculated for each woman were incorporated in generalised linear models and interaction terms were employed to examine the effect of mating behaviour on the relationships between reproductive timing, parental investment and overall reproductive success. Early sexual activity correlates with early reproductive onset for women displaying more long-term mating strategies. Women with more short-term mating strategies exhibit a trade-off between child quantity and child quality not observed in women with a long-term mating strategy. However, women with a short-term mating strategy who delay reproductive timing exhibit levels of parental investment (measured as breastfeeding duration per child) similar to that of women with long-term mating strategies. Reproductive delay has fitness costs (fewer births) for women displaying more short-term mating strategies. We provide empirical evidence that reproductive histories of contemporary women reflect aspects of reproductive strategies, and associations between these strategic elements, as predicted from life history theory.
Previous research has documented shifts in women’s attractions to their romantic partner and to men other than their partner across the ovulation cycle, contingent on the degree to which her partner displays hypothesized indicators of high-fitness genes. The current study set out to replicate and extend this finding. Forty-one couples in which the woman was naturally cycling participated. Female partners reported their feelings of in-pair attraction and extra-pair attraction on two occasions, once on a low-fertility day of the cycle and once on a high-fertility day of the cycle just prior to ovulation. Ovulation was confirmed using luteinizing hormone tests. We collected two measures of male partner sexual attractiveness. First, the women in the study rated their partner’s sexual attractiveness. Second, we photographed the partners and had the photos independently rated for attractiveness. Shifts in women’s in-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by women’s ratings of partner sexual attractiveness, such that the less sexually attractive women rated their partner, the less in-pair attraction they reported at high fertility compared with low fertility (partial r = .37, pdir = .01). Shifts in women’s extra-pair attractions across the cycle were significantly moderated by third-party ratings of partner attractiveness, such that the less attractive the partner was, the more extra-pair attraction women reported at high relative to low fertility (partial r = −.33, pdir = .03). In line with previous findings, we found support for the hypothesis that the degree to which a woman’s romantic partner displays indicators of high-fitness genes affects women’s attractions to their own partner and other men at high fertility.
Enduring positive social bonds between individuals are crucial for humans' health and well being. Similar bonds can be found in a wide range of taxa, revealing the evolutionary origins of humans' social bonds. Evidence suggests that these strong social bonds can function to buffer the negative effects of living in groups, but it is not known whether they also function to minimize predation risk. Here, we show that crested macaques (Macaca nigra) react more strongly to playbacks of recruitment alarm calls (i.e. calls signalling the presence of a predator and eliciting cooperative mobbing behaviour) if they were produced by an individual with whom they share a strong social bond. Dominance relationships between caller and listener had no effect on the reaction of the listener. Thus, strong social bonds may improve the coordination and efficiency of cooperative defence against predators, and therefore increase chances of survival. This result broadens our understanding of the evolution and function of social bonds by highlighting their importance in the anti-predator context.
anti-predator behaviour; primate communication; social bond; cooperation; alarm calls; relationship quality
Female signals of fertility have evolved in diverse taxa. Among the most interesting study systems are those of multimale multifemale group-living primates, where females signal fertility to males through multiple signals, and in which there is substantial inter-specific variation in the composition and reliability of such signals. Among the macaques, some species display reliable behavioural and/or anogenital signals while others do not. One cause of this variation may be differences in male competitive regimes: some species show marked sexual dimorphism and reproductive skew, with males fighting for dominance, while others show low dimorphism and skew, with males queuing for dominance. As such, there is variation in the extent to which rank is a reliable proxy for male competitiveness, which may affect the extent to which it is in females’ interest to signal ovulation reliably. However, data on ovulatory signals are absent from species at one end of the macaque continuum, where selection has led to high sexual dimorphism and male reproductive skew. Here we present data from 31 cycles of 19 wild female crested macaques, a highly sexually dimorphic species with strong mating skew. We collected measures of ovarian hormone data from faeces, sexual swelling size from digital images, and male and female behaviour.
We show that both sexual swelling size and female proceptivity are graded-signals, but relatively reliable indicators of ovulation, with swelling size largest and female proceptive behaviours most frequent around ovulation. Sexual swelling size was also larger in conceptive cycles. Male mating behaviour was well timed to female ovulation, suggesting that males had accurate information about this.
Though probabilistic, crested macaque ovulatory signals are relatively reliable. We argue that in species where males fight over dominance, male dominance rank is surrogate for competitiveness. Under these circumstances it is in the interest of females to increase paternity concentration and assurance in dominants beyond levels seen in species where such competition is less marked. As such, we suggest that it may in part be variation in male competitive regimes that leads to the evolution of fertility signalling systems of different reliability.
Fertility signals; Sexual selection; Sexual swellings; Primate
Affiliative interactions exchanged between victims of aggression and individuals not involved in the original aggression (bystanders) have been observed in various species. Three hypothetical functions have been proposed for these interactions: consolation, self-protection and substitute reconciliation, but data to test them are scanty.
We conducted post-conflict and matched control observations on a captive group of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). We found that victims often redirected aggression to bystanders, that they received most affiliation from those bystanders that were frequently the target of redirection, and that bystander affiliation reduced the likelihood of redirection. Bystander affiliation did not reduce the victim's distress (as measured by its scratching rates) and was not received primarily from kin/friends. Finally, bystander affiliation did not reduce the likelihood of renewed aggression from the original aggressor.
These results provide support for the self-protection hypothesis but not for the consolation and substitute reconciliation hypotheses.
Explaining cooperation between non-relatives is a puzzle for both evolutionary biology and the social sciences. In humans, cooperation is often studied in a laboratory setting using economic games such as the prisoners' dilemma. However, such experiments are sometimes criticized for being played for low stakes and by misrepresentative student samples. Golden balls is a televised game show that uses the prisoners' dilemma, with a diverse range of participants, often playing for very large stakes. We use this non-experimental dataset to investigate the factors that influence cooperation when “playing” for considerably larger stakes than found in economic experiments. The game show has earlier stages that allow for an analysis of lying and voting decisions. We found that contestants were sensitive to the stakes involved, cooperating less when the stakes were larger in both absolute and relative terms. We also found that older contestants were more likely to cooperate, that liars received less cooperative behavior, but only if they told a certain type of lie, and that physical contact was associated with reduced cooperation, whereas laughter and promises were reliable signals or cues of cooperation, but were not necessarily detected.
There is growing evidence that post-copulatory sexual selection, mediated by sperm competition, influences the evolution of sperm phenotypes. Evidence for pre-copulatory sexual selection effects on sperm traits, on the other hand, is rather scarce. A recent paper on the pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca, reported phenotypic associations between sperm length and two sexually selected male traits, i.e. plumage colour and arrival date, thus invoking pre-copulatory sexual selection for longer sperm. We were unable to replicate these associations with a larger data set from the same and two additional study populations; sperm length was not significantly related to either male plumage colour or arrival date. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in sperm length between populations despite marked differences in male plumage colour. We also found some evidence against the previously held assumption of longer sperm being qualitatively superior; longer sperm swam at the same speed as shorter sperm, but were less able to maintain speed over time. We argue that both empirical evidence and theoretical considerations suggest that the evolution of sperm morphology is not primarily associated with pre-copulatory sexual selection on male secondary sexual traits in this or other passerine bird species. The relatively large between-male variation in sperm length in this species is probably due to relaxed post-copulatory sexual selection.
Primates are unusual in that many females display sexual signals, such as sex skin swellings/colorations and copulation calls, without any sex role reversal. The adaptive function of these signals remains largely unclear, although it has been suggested that they provide males with information on female reproductive status. For sex skin swellings, there is increasing evidence that they represent a graded signal indicating the probability of ovulation. Data on the functional significance of copulation calls are much scarcer. To clarify the information content of such calls, we recorded copulation calls in wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and analysed the structure of these calls during the ovarian cycle. Specifically, we correlated selected call parameters with the female oestrogen to progestogen ratio (obtained from faecal samples), which are known to be elevated during the female's fertile phase. In addition, we ran a general linear mixed model for these call parameters, testing factors (cycle phase, occurrence/absence of ejaculation, male dominance status, occurrence/absence of mate guarding) which potentially influence female copulation calls in primates. Our results show that copulation calls of female long-tailed macaques signal mating outcome and rank of the mating partner, but not female reproductive status. They also show for the first time on primates that copulation calls can convey information on whether a female is mate guarded or not. We suspect that the function of these calls is manipulation of male mating and mate-guarding behaviour and that in this way the degree of sperm competition and ultimately male reproductive success is influenced.
Macaca fascicularis; Copulation calls; Sexual signal; Female reproductive status; Male dominance status; Ejaculation; Consortships; Estrogens; Progestogens; Faecal hormones
Nutritional status is a critical element of many aspects of animal ecology, but has proven difficult to measure non-invasively in studies of free-ranging animals. Urinary C-peptide of insulin (UCP), a small polypeptide cleaved in an equimolar ratio from proinsulin when the body converts it to insulin, offers great promise in this regard, and recent studies of several non-human primate species have utilized it with encouraging results. Despite this, there are a number of unresolved issues related to the collection, processing, storage and transport of samples. These include: contamination of samples on collection (most commonly by dirt or faeces), short-term storage before returning to a field station, differences in processing and long-term storage methods (blotting onto filter paper, freezing, lyophilizing), and for frozen samples, transportation while keeping samples frozen. Such issues have been investigated for urine samples in particular with respect to their effects on steroid hormone metabolites, but there has been little investigation of their effects on UCP measurement. We collected samples from captive macaques, and undertook a series of experiments where we systematically manipulated samples and tested the effects on subsequent UCP measurements. We show that contamination of urine samples by faeces led to a decrease in UCP levels by >90%, but that contamination with dirt did not have substantial effects. Short-term storage (up to 12 hours) of samples on ice did not affect UCP levels significantly, but medium-term storage (up to 78 hours) did. Freezing and lyophilization for long-term storage did not affect UCP levels, but blotting onto filter paper did. A transportation simulation showed that transporting frozen samples packed in ice and insulated should be acceptable, but only if it can be completed within a period of a few days and if freeze-thaw can be avoided. We use our data to make practical recommendations for fieldworkers.
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.
color signaling; communication; receiver perception; visual discrimination threshold modeling
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.
familiarity; experience; cognition; reproductive signals; ovulation; discrimination
Studies of the nutritional status of wild animals are important in a wide range of research areas such as ecology, behavioural ecology and reproductive biology. However, they have so far been strongly limited by the indirect nature of the available non-invasive tools for the measurement of individual energetic status. The measurement of urinary C-peptide (UCP), which in humans and great apes shows a close link to individual nutritional status, may be a more direct, non-invasive tool for such studies in other primates as well and possibly even in non-primate mammals. Here, we test the suitability of UCPs as markers of nutritional status in non-hominid primates, investigating relationships between UCPs and body-mass-index (BMI), skinfold fatness, and plasma C-peptide levels in captive and free-ranging macaques. We also conducted a food reduction experiment, with daily monitoring of body weight and UCP levels. UCP levels showed significant positive correlations with BMI and skinfold fatness in both captive and free-ranging animals and with plasma C-peptide levels in captive ones. In the feeding experiment, UCP levels were positively correlated with changes in body mass and were significantly lower during food reduction than during re-feeding and the pre-experimental control condition. We conclude that UCPs may be used as reliable biomarkers of body condition and nutritional status in studies of free-ranging catarrhines. Our results open exciting opportunities for energetic studies on free-ranging primates and possibly also other mammals.
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.
Dominance; Reproductive skew; Mating skew; Priority-of-access model; Genetic paternity analysis; Primates; Rhesus macaques
In primates, females typically drive the evolution of the social system and present a wide diversity of social structures. To understand this diversity, it is necessary to document the consistency and/or flexibility of female social structures across and within species, contexts, and environments. Macaques (Macaca sp.) are an ideal taxon for such comparative study, showing both consistency and variation in their social relations. Their social styles, constituting robust sets of social traits, can be classified in four grades, from despotic to tolerant. However, tolerant species are still understudied, especially in the wild. To foster our understanding of tolerant societies and to assess the validity of the concept of social style, we studied female crested macaques, Macaca nigra, under entirely natural conditions. We assessed their degree of social tolerance by analyzing the frequency, intensity, and distribution of agonistic and affiliative behaviors, their dominance gradient, their bared-teeth display, and their level of conciliatory tendency. We also analyzed previously undocumented behavioral patterns in grade 4 macaques: reaction upon approach and distribution of affiliative behavior across partners. We compared the observed patterns to data from other populations of grade 4 macaques and from species of other grades. Overall, female crested macaques expressed a tolerant social style, with low intensity, frequently bidirectional, and reconciled conflicts. Dominance asymmetry was moderate, associated with an affiliative bared-teeth display. Females greatly tolerated one another in close proximity. The observed patterns matched the profile of other tolerant macaques and were outside the range of patterns of more despotic species. This study is the first comprehensive analysis of females’ social behavior in a tolerant macaque species under natural conditions and as such, contributes to a better understanding of macaque societies. It also highlights the relevance of the social style concept in the assessment of the degree of tolerance/despotism in social systems. Am. J. Primatol. 75:361-375, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
females; social behavior; social tolerance; comparative studies; macaques; Macaca nigra