Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 59, Issue 6, pp 740–752 | Cite as

Determinants of male reproductive success in wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis)—male monopolisation, female mate choice or post-copulatory mechanisms?

  • Antje Engelhardt
  • Michael Heistermann
  • J. Keith Hodges
  • Peter Nürnberg
  • Carsten Niemitz
Original Article


One of the basic principles of sexual selection is that male reproductive success should be skewed towards strong males in species with anisogamous sex. Studies on primate multi-male groups, however, suggest that other factors than male fighting ability might also affect male reproductive success. The proximate mechanisms leading to paternity in multi-male primate groups still remain largely unknown since in most primate studies mating rather than reproductive success is measured. Furthermore, little research focuses on a female’s fertile phase. The aim of this study was to investigate the relative importance of male monopolisation and female direct mate choice for paternity determination. We also investigated the extent to which paternity was decided post-copulatory, i.e. within the female reproductive tract. We used a combined approach of behavioural observations with faecal hormone and genetic analysis for assessment of female cycle stage and paternity, respectively. The study was carried out on a group of wild long-tailed macaques living around the Ketambe Research Station, Gunung Leuser National Park, Indonesia. Our results suggest that both male monopolisation and post-copulatory mechanisms are the main determinants of male reproductive success, whereas female direct mate choice and alternative male reproductive strategies appear to be of little importance in this respect. Female cooperation may, however, have facilitated male monopolisation. Since paternity was restricted to alpha and beta males even when females mated with several males during the fertile phase, it seems that not only male monopolisation but also post-copulatory mechanisms may operate in favour of high-ranking males in long-tailed macaques, thus reinforcing the reproductive skew in this species.


Reproductive strategies Primates Paternity Post-copulatory mechanisms Macaca fascicularis 



We gratefully acknowledge the cooperation and support of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the General Directorate of Forest Protection and Nature Conservation (PKA), the Universitas Nasional (UNAS), Jakarta (in particular Tatang Mitra Setia), and the Leuser Management Unit (UML). We thank the UML staff in Medan and Ketambe for providing an excellent research environment and strong logistical support; Arwin, Azhar, Bahlias, Dewi, Matplin, Rahimin, Samsu and Surya for assistance in the field; and Jutta Hagedorn and Andrea Heistermann for laboratory assistance. Jan de Ruiter generously provided us with blood samples from the Ketambe population for the establishment of microsatellite analysis in long-tailed macaques and Heike Rösler conducted most of the genetic analysis. We thank Anja Widdig and three anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. This research was financed by the German Research Council (DFG) (Ni186/14-1). A. Engelhardt was financially supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the State of Berlin Graduate Sponsorship (Nafög), the KKGS Fund, the Lucie-Burgers Foundation for Comparative Research, Arnhem, The Netherlands, and the Christian-Vogel-Funds. This study complies with the current laws of the countries in which it was performed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antje Engelhardt
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  • Michael Heistermann
    • 1
  • J. Keith Hodges
    • 1
  • Peter Nürnberg
    • 3
  • Carsten Niemitz
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Reproductive BiologyGerman Primate CentreGöttingenGermany
  2. 2.Human Biology and AnthropologyFree University of BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Institute of Medical GeneticsCharité, Humboldt-University BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.Department of Reproductive BiologyGerman Primate CentreGöttingenUSA

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