Original Article


, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 222-231

First online:

Effects of male group size, parity, and cycle stage on female chimpanzee copulation rates at Ngogo, Kibale National Park, Uganda

  • David P. WattsAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Yale University Email author 

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Chimpanzees have complex and variable mating strategies, but most copulations occur when females with full sexual swellings are in parties with multiple males and mate with most or all of those males. Daily copulation rates for fully swollen females vary at different times of a female’s cycle, among females, and across communities and populations. Variation in female age, parity, and cycle stage underlie some of this variation, but possible demographic effects on copulation rates have not been systematically investigated. Demographic variation can affect many aspects of behavior and ecology, including the frequency and success of different mating tactics. Analysis of data from the unusually large chimpanzee community at Ngogo produces two results that are consistent with the hypothesis that demographic variation affects female copulation rates. Copulation rates were high compared with those reported from other research sites, where females had fewer potential mates available. Daily copulation rates of fully swollen females were also positively related to the number of males with whom they associated. Ngogo data also re-confirm results from other studies, of both wild and captive populations, showing that female copulation rates increase during periovulatory periods. This is consistent with the hypothesis that sexual swellings and extended receptivity and proceptivity help to protect females against infanticide by helping to ensure they mate with all potential sires. As at some other sites, parous females at Ngogo copulated at higher rates than nulliparous females. Possible effects of demography on sexual behavior should be considered in assessments of differences between chimpanzees and bonobos and of variation across chimpanzee populations.


Chimpanzees Copulations Mating Demographic effects