Original Article

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 740-752

First online:

Determinants of male reproductive success in wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis)—male monopolisation, female mate choice or post-copulatory mechanisms?

  • Antje EngelhardtAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate CentreHuman Biology and Anthropology, Free University of BerlinDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Centre Email author 
  • , Michael HeistermannAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Centre
  • , J. Keith HodgesAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Centre
  • , Peter NürnbergAffiliated withInstitute of Medical Genetics, Charité, Humboldt-University Berlin
  • , Carsten NiemitzAffiliated withHuman Biology and Anthropology, Free University of Berlin

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One of the basic principles of sexual selection is that male reproductive success should be skewed towards strong males in species with anisogamous sex. Studies on primate multi-male groups, however, suggest that other factors than male fighting ability might also affect male reproductive success. The proximate mechanisms leading to paternity in multi-male primate groups still remain largely unknown since in most primate studies mating rather than reproductive success is measured. Furthermore, little research focuses on a female’s fertile phase. The aim of this study was to investigate the relative importance of male monopolisation and female direct mate choice for paternity determination. We also investigated the extent to which paternity was decided post-copulatory, i.e. within the female reproductive tract. We used a combined approach of behavioural observations with faecal hormone and genetic analysis for assessment of female cycle stage and paternity, respectively. The study was carried out on a group of wild long-tailed macaques living around the Ketambe Research Station, Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia. Our results suggest that both male monopolisation and post-copulatory mechanisms are the main determinants of male reproductive success, whereas female direct mate choice and alternative male reproductive strategies appear to be of little importance in this respect. Female cooperation may, however, have facilitated male monopolisation. Since paternity was restricted to alpha and beta males even when females mated with several males during the fertile phase, it seems that not only male monopolisation but also post-copulatory mechanisms may operate in favour of high-ranking males in long-tailed macaques, thus reinforcing the reproductive skew in this species.


Reproductive strategies Primates Paternity Post-copulatory mechanisms Macaca fascicularis