, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 258-266

Female choice in the opportunistic mating of wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Mahale

Abstract

For female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in the Mahale Mountains National Park, Tanzania, the most common mating pattern is opportunistic. In such opportunistic matings, females copulated promiscuously but not randomly. This study describes female mate choice during 1-year observation of six females who exhibited regular genital-swelling cycles. During the study period, 169 opportunistic matings and four restrictive matings were recorded over the course of 51 days. As female estrus progressed, mating frequency and the number of adult male mating partners increased, although the number of potential mating partners did not change. Criteria of female choice examined were the direction and consent/rejection of courtship, proximity maintenance, and female grooming. Adult-male courtships were successful more often than those of adolescent males. During the earlier phase of estrus, females copulated rather promiscuously with many males. But during the later phase of estrus when the likelihood of conception is expected to be highest, they copulated repeatedly with high-ranking adult males. There was a positive correlation between female grooming frequency and mating frequency when the likelihood of conception was greatest. Female chimpanzees are thought to choose high-ranking males as fathers of their offspring. Moreover, female chimpanzees may adopt one or both of two mating strategies, i.e., a many-male strategy and a best-male strategy.

Received: 23 November 1998 / Received in revised form: 12 April 1999 / Accepted: 26 April 1999