Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 55, Issue 3, pp 293–301 | Cite as

Small testes size despite high extra-pair paternity in the pair-living nocturnal primate Phaner furcifer

  • Oliver SchülkeEmail author
  • Peter M. Kappeler
  • Hans Zischler
Original Article


Sperm competition will be the inevitable consequence of polyandrous mating behavior if two or more males inseminate a single female. It has been demonstrated for a wide variety of animals that males adapt to this situation behaviorally, physiologically and morphologically, e.g. by evolving relatively large testes size to produce more sperm. All pair-living primates investigated so far were found to have relatively small testes, suggesting a monandrous mating system. We investigated the relationship between extra-pair paternity (EPP) rate as a measure of sperm competition intensity and relative testes size in a pair-living primate, the fork-marked lemur (Phaner furcifer). Paternity exclusion analyses for seven offspring using six polymorphic DNA-microsatellite markers suggested a high EPP rate. Female nocturnal travel distances were longer during the mating season, suggesting that females take an active role in achieving extra-pair copulations (EPCs). Surprisingly, fork-marked lemur testes size was relatively small compared to 23 other lemuroid primates, a result that is in contrast to predictions of sperm competition theory. Neither possible behavioral and morphological adaptations to an alternative paternity guard (i.e. mate guarding), nor sampling biases, phylogenetic constraints, and population density effects explain the absence of large testes in a species with high EPP, a phenomenon also known from birds with moderate to low EPP rates. We conclude that more data are needed on the frequency of EPCs, the timing of in-pair and extra-pair copulations, as well as the role of female choice, to explain why males of some species apparently do not adapt to sperm competition.


Sperm competition Monogamy Extra-pair paternity Testes size Phaner furcifer 



The study is part of the dissertation work of O.Schülke presented to the University of Würzburg. We thank the Commission Tripartite of the Malagasy Government, the Direction des Eaux et Forêts Madagascar for research permits, the Centre de Formation Professionelle Forestiére de Morondava for hospitality and Professor B. Rakotosamimanana from the Université d’Antananarivo and Felix Rakotondraparany at PBZT Antananarivo for their co-operation. R. Rasoloarison and L. Razafimanantsoa provided invaluable logistic support. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Jean-Claude from Beroboka, Alpha from Marofandilia and many fellow researchers at Kirindy during capture sessions—without them the study would have been impossible. We thank B. Bradley, A. Gordon, N. Hagenah, R. Hilgartner, S. Johnson, R. Kitko, R. Lewis, A. Merenlender, L. Nash, D. Overdorff, U. Radespiel, B. Randrianambinina, R. Stumpf, E. Zimmermann, and D. Zinner for providing us with previously unpublished data. R. Hilgartner, M. Port, A. Perez-Mélis and T. Adrianjanahary contributed with their observations. A. Hapke introduced O.S. to the genetics laboratory and J. Fietz, A. Hapke and M. Eberle shared their DNA primers with us. We thank S. Alberts, C. Borries, A. Koenig, J. Ostner and D. Zinner for discussion and/or helpful comments. Financial support was generously provided by Deutsches Primatenzentrum Göttingen. The study complies with the current laws of the countries where it was conducted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Oliver Schülke
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Peter M. Kappeler
    • 1
  • Hans Zischler
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Behavior and EcologyGerman Primate CenterGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical BiologyUniversity of WürzburgGermany
  3. 3.Working Group Primate GeneticsGerman Primate CenterGöttingenGermany
  4. 4.Department of AnthropologySUNY at Stony BrookStony BrookUSA

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