Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 9, pp 1453–1466 | Cite as

Sex-specific reproductive behaviours and paternity in free-ranging Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus)

  • Katrin Brauch
  • Keith Hodges
  • Antje Engelhardt
  • Kerstin Fuhrmann
  • Eric Shaw
  • Michael HeistermannEmail author
Original Paper


In a wide variety of species, male reproductive success is determined by contest for access to females. Among multi-male primate groups, however, factors in addition to male competitive ability may also influence paternity outcome, although their exact nature and force is still largely unclear. Here, we have investigated in a group of free-ranging Barbary macaques whether paternity is determined on the pre- or postcopulatory level and how male competitive ability and female direct mate choice during the female fertile phase are related to male reproductive success. Behavioural observations were combined with faecal hormone analysis for timing of the fertile phase (13 cycles, 8 females) and genetic paternity analysis (n = 12). During the fertile phase, complete monopolisation of females did not occur. Females were consorted for only 49% of observation time, and all females had ejaculatory copulations with several males. Thus, in all cases, paternity was determined on the postcopulatory level. More than 80% of infants were sired by high-ranking males, and this reproductive skew was related to both, male competitive ability and female direct mate choice as high-ranking males spent more time in consort with females than low-ranking males, and females solicited copulations mainly from dominant males. As most ejaculatory copulations were female-initiated, female direct mate choice appeared to have the highest impact on male reproductive success. However, female preference was not directly translated into paternity, as fathers were not preferred over non-fathers in terms of solicitation, consortship and mating behaviour. Collectively, our data show that in the Barbary macaque, both sexes significantly influence male mating success, but that sperm of several males generally compete within the female reproductive tract and that therefore paternity is determined by mechanisms operating at the postcopulatory level.


Faecal hormone analysis Paternity Male reproductive success Female mate choice Postcopulatory mechanisms 



This study was conducted as part of the Gibraltar Barbary macaque project (GBMP). We express our gratitude to Dr. John Cortes of the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society and Marc Pizarro of the Gibraltar Veterinary Clinic for their support and cooperation. We also thank Brian Gomilla for his help in collection of behavioural data and Nina Stobbe, Dana Pfefferle and Brian Gomilla for their help in collecting faecal samples, Dr. Eckhard Heymann and Dr. Dietmar Zinner are acknowledged for help with the statistics. We are grateful to Dr. N. Menard for her advice on the methodology of microsatellite analysis and suitability of genetic markers and Dr. L. Modolo for providing access to blood samples used for the genetic validation tests. Dana Pfefferle, Andrea Heistermann and Jutta Hagedorn provided support in hormone analyses, and Dr. C. Roos and Dr. M. Eberle provided advice in paternity analysis. We thank the Royal Air Force Gibraltar for permission to enter the study area. The study was conducted completely noninvasively and under the permission of GOHNS, the authority responsible for any research on the Gibraltar Barbary macaques. We adhered to the Guidelines of the Use of Animals in Research, the legal requirements of Gibraltar and the guidelines of the involved institutes. The study was supported by a grant (GRK 289/3-03) from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katrin Brauch
    • 1
    • 2
  • Keith Hodges
    • 1
  • Antje Engelhardt
    • 1
  • Kerstin Fuhrmann
    • 1
  • Eric Shaw
    • 3
  • Michael Heistermann
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Reproductive BiologyGerman Primate CenterGoettingenGermany
  2. 2.Department of Behavioural BiologyUniversity of MuensterMuensterGermany
  3. 3.Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society, Gibraltar Natural History Field CentreUpper Rock Nature ReserveGibraltarGermany

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