Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 9, pp 1453-1466

First online:

Sex-specific reproductive behaviours and paternity in free-ranging Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus)

  • Katrin BrauchAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate CenterDepartment of Behavioural Biology, University of Muenster
  • , Keith HodgesAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Center
  • , Antje EngelhardtAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Center
  • , Kerstin FuhrmannAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Center
  • , Eric ShawAffiliated withGibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society, Gibraltar Natural History Field Centre, Upper Rock Nature Reserve
  • , Michael HeistermannAffiliated withDepartment of Reproductive Biology, German Primate Center Email author 

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In a wide variety of species, male reproductive success is determined by contest for access to females. Among multi-male primate groups, however, factors in addition to male competitive ability may also influence paternity outcome, although their exact nature and force is still largely unclear. Here, we have investigated in a group of free-ranging Barbary macaques whether paternity is determined on the pre- or postcopulatory level and how male competitive ability and female direct mate choice during the female fertile phase are related to male reproductive success. Behavioural observations were combined with faecal hormone analysis for timing of the fertile phase (13 cycles, 8 females) and genetic paternity analysis (n = 12). During the fertile phase, complete monopolisation of females did not occur. Females were consorted for only 49% of observation time, and all females had ejaculatory copulations with several males. Thus, in all cases, paternity was determined on the postcopulatory level. More than 80% of infants were sired by high-ranking males, and this reproductive skew was related to both, male competitive ability and female direct mate choice as high-ranking males spent more time in consort with females than low-ranking males, and females solicited copulations mainly from dominant males. As most ejaculatory copulations were female-initiated, female direct mate choice appeared to have the highest impact on male reproductive success. However, female preference was not directly translated into paternity, as fathers were not preferred over non-fathers in terms of solicitation, consortship and mating behaviour. Collectively, our data show that in the Barbary macaque, both sexes significantly influence male mating success, but that sperm of several males generally compete within the female reproductive tract and that therefore paternity is determined by mechanisms operating at the postcopulatory level.


Faecal hormone analysis Paternity Male reproductive success Female mate choice Postcopulatory mechanisms