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.
Ornaments; sexual selection; female mate choice; sexual skin; color; anthropoid primates
Animal visual signals have the potential to act as an isolating barrier to prevent interbreeding of populations through a role in species recognition. Within communities of competing species, species recognition signals are predicted to undergo character displacement, becoming more visually distinctive from each other, however this pattern has rarely been identified. Using computational face recognition algorithms to model primate face processing, we demonstrate that the face patterns of guenons (tribe: Cercopithecini) have evolved under selection to become more visually distinctive from those of other guenon species with whom they are sympatric. The relationship between the appearances of sympatric species suggests that distinguishing conspecifics from other guenon species has been a major driver of diversification in guenon face appearance. Visual signals that have undergone character displacement may have had an important role in the tribe’s radiation, keeping populations that became geographically separated reproductively isolated on secondary contact.
The past decade has seen an increasing shift in animal communication towards more studies that incorporate aspects of signaling in multiple modalities. Although nonhuman primates are an excellent group for studying the extent to which different aspects of condition may be signaled in different modalities, and how such information may be integrated during mate choice, very few studies of primate species have incorporated such analyses. Here, we present data from free-ranging male rhesus macaques on sex skin coloration (modeled to receiver perception), bark vocal signals, androgen levels, morphometric variables, dominance status, and female mate choice. We show that, consistent with data on females, most intra- and interindividual variation in sex skin appearance occurs in luminance rather than color. Sex skin luminance was significantly correlated across different skin regions. Sex skin luminance did not correlate with the majority of bark parameters, suggesting the potential for the two signals to convey different information. Sex skin appearance was not related to androgen levels although we found some evidence for links between androgen levels and bark parameters, several of which were also related to morphometric variables. We found no evidence that either signal was related to male dominance rank or used in female mate choice, though more direct measures of female proceptive behavior are needed. Overall, the function of male sex skin coloration in this species remains unclear. Our study is among the first nonhuman primate studies to incorporate measurements of multiple signals in multiple modalities, and we encourage other authors to incorporate such analyses into their work.
Coloration; Luminance; Vocal signals; Multimodal; Primate; Rhesus macaques
Understanding the genetic and neuroendocrine basis of the mother-infant bond is critical to understanding mammalian affiliation and attachment. Functionally similar non-synonymous mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) SNPs have arisen and been maintained in humans (A118G) and rhesus macaques (C77G). In rhesus macaques, variation in OPRM1 predicts individual differences in infant affiliation for mothers. Specifically, infants carrying the G allele show increased distress on separation from their mothers, and spend more time with them upon reunion, than individuals homozygous for the C allele. In humans, individuals possessing the G allele report higher perceptions of emotional pain on receiving rejection by social partners. We studied maternal behavior over the course of a year among free-ranging female rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. We then trapped females and collected blood samples, from which we assessed OPRM1 genotype; we also collected CSF samples from which we measured oxytocin (OT) levels. We show that females possessing the G allele restrain their infants more (i.e. prevent infants from separating from them by pulling them back) than females homozygous for the C allele. Females possessing the G allele also show higher OT levels when lactating, and lower OT levels when neither lactating nor pregnant, than females homozygous for the C allele. This is the first study to demonstrate an association between OPRM1 genotype and maternal attachment for infants, and is one of the first studies of any free-ranging primate population to link functional genetic variation to behavior via potentially related neuroendocrine mechanisms.
mother-infant bond; opioids; oxytocin; functional genetics; attachment
Studies of large free-ranging mammals have been revolutionized by non-invasive methods for assessing physiology, which usually involve the measurement of fecal or urinary biomarkers. However, such techniques are limited by numerous factors. To expand the range of physiological variables measurable non-invasively from free-ranging primates, we developed techniques for sampling monkey saliva by offering monkeys ropes with oral swabs sewn on the ends. We evaluated different attractants for encouraging individuals to offer samples, and proportions of individuals in different age/sex categories willing to give samples. We tested the saliva samples we obtained in three commercially available assays: cortisol, Salivary Alpha Amylase, and Secretory Immunoglobulin A. We show that habituated free-ranging rhesus macaques will give saliva samples voluntarily without training, with 100% of infants, and over 50% of adults willing to chew on collection devices. Our field methods are robust even for analytes that show poor recovery from cotton, and/or that have concentrations dependent on salivary flow rate. We validated the cortisol and SAA assays for use in rhesus macaques by showing aspects of analytical validation, such as that samples dilute linearly and in parallel to assay standards. We also found that values measured correlated with biologically meaningful characteristics of sampled individuals (age and dominance rank). The SIgA assay tested did not react to samples. Given the wide range of analytes measurable in saliva but not in feces or urine, our methods considerably improve our ability to study physiological aspects of the behavior and ecology of free-ranging primates, and are also potentially adaptable to other mammalian taxa.
field methods; laboratory methods; enzyme-immuno-assay; immune function; cortisol; alpha amylase; secretory immunoglobulin A; saliva; mammalian
Social status primarily determines male mammalian reproductive success, and hypotheses on the endocrinology of dominance have stimulated unprecedented investigation of its costs and benefits. Under the challenge hypothesis, male testosterone levels rise according to competitive need, while the social stress hypothesis predicts glucocorticoid (GC) rises in high ranking individuals during social unrest. Periods of social instability in group-living primates, primarily in baboons, provide evidence for both hypotheses, but data on social instability in seasonally-breeding species with marked social despotism but lower reproductive skew are lacking. We tested these hypotheses in seasonally-breeding rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. We documented male fecal GC and androgen levels over a 10 month period in relation to rank, age, natal status and group tenure length, including during a socially unstable period in which coalitions of lower-ranked males attacked higher-ranked males. Androgen but not GC levels rose during the mating season; older males had lower birth season levels but underwent a greater inter-season rise than younger males. Neither endocrine measure was related to rank except during social instability, when higher ranked individuals had higher and more variable levels of both. High ranking male targets had the highest GC levels of all males when targeted, and also had high and variable GC and androgen levels across the instability period. Our results provide evidence for both the challenge and social stress hypotheses.
challenge hypothesis; social stress; male-male competition; social status; dominance
In mammals, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and immune system play an important role in the maintenance of homeostasis. Dysregulation of either system resulting, for example, from psychosocial or reproductive stress increases susceptibility to disease and mortality risk, especially in aging individuals. In a study of free-ranging rhesus macaques, we examined how female age, reproductive state, social rank, and body condition influence (i) aspects of cytokine biology (plasma concentrations of interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), IL-6 and IL-8), and (ii) HPA axis activity (plasma and fecal glucocorticoid levels). We also assessed individual differences in cytokine and hormone concentrations over time to determine their consistency and to investigate relations between these two indicators of physiological regulation and demand. Female monkeys showed marked increases in HPA axis activity during pregnancy and lactation, and increased circulating levels of IL-1ra with advancing age. Inter-individual differences in IL-1ra and IL-8 were consistent over successive years, suggesting that both are stable, trait-like characteristics. Furthermore, the concentrations of fecal glucocorticoid hormones in non-pregnant, non-lactating females were correlated with their plasma cortisol and IL-8 concentrations. Some individuals showed permanently elevated cytokine levels or HPA axis activity, or a combination of the two, suggesting chronic stress or disease. Our results enhance our understanding of within- and between-individual variation in cytokine levels and their relationship with glucocorticoid hormones in free-ranging primates. These findings can provide the basis for future research on stress and allostatic load in primates.
rhesus macaque; cytokines; cortisol; aging; reproduction; allostatic load
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
Long-lived iteroparous species often show aging-related changes in reproduction that may be explained by 2 non-mutually exclusive hypotheses. The terminal investment hypothesis predicts increased female reproductive effort toward the end of the life span, as individuals have little to gain by reserving effort for the future. The senescence hypothesis predicts decreased female reproductive output toward the end of the life span due to an age-related decline in body condition. Nonhuman primates are ideal organisms for testing these hypotheses, as they are long lived and produce altricial offspring heavily dependent on maternal investment. In this study, we integrated 50 years of continuous demographic records for the Cayo Santiago rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) population with new morphometric and behavioral data to test the senescence and terminal investment hypotheses. We examined relationships between maternal age and activity, mother and infant body condition, interbirth intervals, measures of behavioral investment in offspring, and offspring survival and fitness to test for age-associated declines in reproduction that would indicate senescence, and for age-associated increases in maternal effort that would indicate terminal investment. Compared with younger mothers, older mothers had lower body mass indices and were less active, had longer interbirth intervals, and spent more time in contact with infants, but had infants of lower masses and survival rates. Taken together, our results provide strong evidence for the occurrence of reproductive senescence in free-ranging female rhesus macaques but are also consistent with some of the predictions of the terminal investment hypothesis.
aging; life history; maternal investment; offspring fitness; reproductive senescence; rhesus macaques
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.