International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 651–661 | Cite as

Female perineal swelling and its effects on male sexual arousal: An apparent sexual releaser in the chacma baboon (Papio ursinus)

  • L. Girolami
  • C. Bielert


The function of the periodic perineal swelling that females of some primate species show in relation to their menstrual cycle has long puzzled many scientists. A role in female attractiveness was suspected, but fluctuations in female behaviors concomitant to these changes in female appearance have always prevented its assessment. By attaching a plastic reproduction of a fully swollen perineum to ovariectomized female chacma baboons, it has finally been demonstrated that the sexual swelling hasan important function in the sexual communication of this species. It induces sexual arousal in male conspecifics. The way the perineal swelling acts and other characteristic aspects of this feature appear to qualify it as a releaser for sexual behavior.

Key words

Papio ursinus baboon sexual communication releaser sexual arousal sexual swelling 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Altmann, S. A. (1967). Discussion of reproductive behavior. In Altmann, S. A. (ed.),Social Communication among Primates, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 55–59.Google Scholar
  2. Baum, M. J. (1983). Hormonal modulation of sexuality in female primates.Bio Sci. 33: 578–582.Google Scholar
  3. Beach, F. A. (1976). Sexual attractivity, proceptivity and receptivity in female mammals.Horm. Behav. 7: 105–138.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernstein, I. S., and Gordon, T. P. (1979). Inter- and intraspecific sexual behavior in two species of macaque: A possible behavioral barrier to gene flow.Behav. Proces. 4: 265–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bielert, C. (1982). Experimental examinations of baboon (Papio ursinus) sex stimuli. In Snowdon, C. T., Brown, C. H., and Petersen, M. R. (eds.),Primate Communication, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 373–395.Google Scholar
  6. Bielert, C. (1986). Sexual interactions between captive adult male and female chacma baboons as related to the female’s menstrual cycle.J. Zool. (London) 209: 521–536.Google Scholar
  7. Bielert, C., and Anderson, C. M. (1985). Baboon sexual swellings and male response: A possible operational mammalian supernormal stimulus and response interaction.Int. J. Primatol. 6: 377–393.Google Scholar
  8. Bielert, C., and Girolami, L. (1986). Experimental assessments of behavioral and anatomical components of female chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) sexual attractiveness.Psychoneuroendocrinalogy 11: 75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bielert, C., and van der Walt, L. A. (1982). Male chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) sexual arousal: Mediation by visual cues from female conspecifics.Psychoneuroendocrinology 7: 31–48.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bielert, C., Howard-Tripp, M. E., and van der Walt, L. A. (1980). Environmental and social factors influencing seminal emission in chacma baboons (Papio ursinus).Psychoneuroendocrinology 5: 287–303.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bielert, C., Girolami, L., and Anderson, C. M. (1986). Male chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) sexual arousal: Studies with adolescent and adult females as visual stimului.Dev. Psychobiol. 19: 369–383.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Darwin, C. (1876). Sexual selection in relation to monkeys.Nature (London) 15: 18–19.Google Scholar
  13. Dixson, A. F. (1983). Observations on the evolution and behavioural significance of “sexual skin” in female primates. In Rosenblatt, J. S., Hinde, R. A., Beer, C., and Busnel, M. C. (eds.),Advances in the Study of Behavior, Academic Press, New York, Vol. 13, pp. 63–106.Google Scholar
  14. Eibl-Eibelsfeldt, I. (1975).Ethology: The Biology of Behavior, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York.Google Scholar
  15. Gillman, J., and Gilbert, C. (1946). The reproductive cycle of the chacma baboon (Papio ursinus) with special reference to the problems of menstrual irregularities as assessed by the behaviour of the sex skin.S. Afr. J. Med. Sci. Biol. Suppl. 11: 1–54.Google Scholar
  16. Goodhart, C. B. (1964). A biological view of toplessness.New Sci. 407: 54–56.Google Scholar
  17. Hall, K. R. L. (1962). The sexual and derived social behaviour patterns of the wild chacma baboon,Papio ursinus.Proc. zool. Soc. London. 139: 283–327.Google Scholar
  18. Hall, K. R. L., and DeVore, I. (1965). Baboon social behavior. In DeVore, I. (ed.),Primate Behavior: Field Studies of Monkeys and Apes, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, pp. 20–52.Google Scholar
  19. Hausfater, G. (1975).Dominance and Reproduction in Baboons (Papio cynocephalus):A Quantitative Analysis, Karger, Basel.Google Scholar
  20. Hausfater, G., and Skoblick, B. (1985). Perimenstrual behavior changes among female yellow baboons: Some similarities to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in women.Am. J. Primatol. 9: 165–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heymer, A. (1977).Ethological Dictionary, Paul Parey, Berlin.Google Scholar
  22. Hrdy, S. B., and Whitten, P. L. (1987). Patterning of sexual activity. In Smuts, B. B., Cheney, D. L. Seyfarth, R. M., Wrangham, R. W., and Struhsaker, T. T. (eds.),Primate societies, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 370–384.Google Scholar
  23. McFarland, D. (ed.)(1981).The Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  24. McFarland, D. (1985).Animal Behaviour: Psychobiology, Ethology and Evolution, Pitman, London.Google Scholar
  25. Michael, R. P., and Keverne, E. B. (1968). Pheromones in the communication of sexual status in primates.Nature (London) 218: 746–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Morris, D. (1967).The Naked Ape, Jonathan Cape, London.Google Scholar
  27. Pocock, R. I. (1906). Notes upon menstruation, gestation, and parturition of some monkeys that have lived in the Society’s Gardens.Proc. zool. Soc. London 2: 558–570.Google Scholar
  28. Rowell, T. E. (1967). Female reproductive cycles and the behavior of baboons and rhesus macaques. In Altmann, S. A. (ed.),Social Communication Among Primates, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 15–52.Google Scholar
  29. Rowell, T. E. (1969). Intra-sexual behaviour and female reproductive cycles of baboons (Papio anubis).Anim. Behav. 17: 159–167.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rowell, T. E. (1972). Female reproduction cycles and social behavior in primates. In Lehrman, D. S., Hinde, R. A., and Shar, E. (eds.),Advances in the Study of Behavior, Academic Press, New York, Vol. 4, pp. 69–105.Google Scholar
  31. Saayman, G. S. (1970). The menstrual cycle and sexual behaviour in a troop of free-ranging chacma baboons (Papio ursinus).Folia primatol. 12: 81–110.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shaikh, A. A., Celaya, C. L., Gomez, I., and Shaikh, S. A. (1982). Temporal relationship of hormonal peaks to ovulation and sex skin deturgescence in the baboon.Primates 23: 444–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wickler, W. (1967). Socio-sexual signals and their intra-specific imitation among primates. In Morris, D. (ed.),Primate Ethology, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, pp. 69–147.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Girolami
    • 1
  • C. Bielert
    • 1
  1. 1.Primate Behaviour Research Group, School of PsychologyUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations