, Volume 68, Issue 7, pp 1097-1108
Date: 03 Apr 2014

Dominance rank, female reproductive synchrony, and male reproductive skew in wild Assamese macaques

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Abstract

In groups with multiple males, direct mate competition may select for the evolution of dominance hierarchies that sort males into a queue for access to fertile females. The priority-of-access (PoA) model proposed by Altmann in 1962 makes explicit predictions about the resulting paternity distribution based on an interaction between male dominance rank and the overlap of female receptive phases. Here, we investigated whether the logic of the PoA model predicted the distribution of paternity across ranks in a seasonal breeder with high reproductive synchrony over six consecutive mating seasons. We studied 18 males that resided in a group of wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis) in their natural habitat at Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary, Thailand, between 2006 and 2011 with 5 to 13 conceptions per season. We assessed whether mate guarding increased paternity success, described “short-term” deviations from predicted paternity distribution, and examined how these are related to the number of competitors and fertile females. We determined genetic paternity of 43 (93 %) offspring born into the study group and found reproductive skew to be relatively low with 29 % alpha male paternity in accordance with the high degree of female reproductive synchrony observed. Short-term deviations from expected paternity distribution over ranks were not explained by the number of resident males or the number of conceiving females or their interaction. Within the limits of this study, these results suggest that even if males cannot discern female fertile phases, if reproduction is seasonal, and if reproductive synchrony is high, males may also compete directly over access to females.

Communicated by A. Widdig