, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 27-39

A comparison of the mating behavior of adolescent and adult female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

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Abstract

This study compares adult and adolescent female rhesus macaques with regard to (1) characteristics of their copulatory partners, (2) their proceptive behaviors, and (3) adult male behaviors toward them during estrus. We conducted focal follows of 24 adolescent and 65 adult free-ranging estrous female rhesus macaques on Cayo Santiago during two mating seasons. Compared to adult females, adolescents presented sexually to males at higher rates; copulated more frequently with rankless young male, and extra-group males; and, in one of two mating seasons, were ignored more frequently by males to whom they presented sexually. Adolescents tended to copulate with ranked, resident males at higher frequencies on days when the operational sex ratio (adult males:estrous adult females) was high. Males directed “muzzle-up” signals to adolescents at lower rates than to adults in one of two mating seasons, although this effect vanished when males who might have fathered adolescent females were excluded from analysis. Adolescents did not differ consistently from adults in strength of the correlation between proximity maintenance (dyadic Hinde's Index) and copulation rate, or in approach rate to males. Adolescent females, relative to adult females, presented sexually more to rankless young males, but did not present more to ranked, resident males. Both proximate (e.g. endocrine) and ultimate (e.g. differential fecundity; female-female mate competition) explanations may account for the reported differences between adult and adolescent female rhesus macaque sexuality.