Sex differences in survival costs of reproduction in a promiscuous primate

  • Christy L. Hoffman
  • Angelina V. Ruiz-Lambides
  • Edgar Davila
  • Elizabeth Maldonado
  • Melissa S. Gerald
  • Dario MaestripieriEmail author
Original Paper


In sexually promiscuous mammals, female reproductive effort is mainly expressed through gestation, lactation, and maternal care, whereas male reproductive effort is mainly manifested as mating effort. In this study, we investigated whether reproduction has significant survival costs for a seasonally breeding, sexually promiscuous species, the rhesus macaque, and whether these costs occur at different times of the year for females and males, namely in the birth and the mating season, respectively. The study was conducted with the rhesus macaque population on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. Data on 7,402 births and 922 deaths over a 45-year period were analyzed. Births were concentrated between November and April, while conceptions occurred between May and October. As predicted, female mortality probability peaked in the birth season whereas male mortality probability peaked in the mating season. Furthermore, as the onset of the birth season gradually shifted over the years in relation to climatic changes, there was a concomitant shift in the seasonal peaks of male and female mortality. Taken together, our findings provide the first evidence of sex differences in the survival costs of reproduction in nonhuman primates and suggest that reproduction has significant fitness costs even in environments with abundant food and absence of predation.


Survival costs of reproduction Sex differences Seasonal reproduction Climate change Rhesus macaques 



We thank all the staff of the Caribbean Primate Research Center and the researchers who, over the years, have contributed to the maintenance of the Cayo Santiago demographic and reproductive database. We also thank Brian J. Prendergast for earlier discussions of our results, Paul Rathouz for expert advice on statistical analyses, and Matt Kessler for helpful comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant R21-AG029862 to D.M. and by intramural funds from the University of Chicago and the University of Puerto Rico, Medical Sciences Campus. This publication was made possible by grant number CM-5-P40RR003640 from the National Center for Research Resources (NCRR), a component of the NIH. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NCRR or NIH.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christy L. Hoffman
    • 1
  • Angelina V. Ruiz-Lambides
    • 2
  • Edgar Davila
    • 3
  • Elizabeth Maldonado
    • 2
  • Melissa S. Gerald
    • 3
    • 4
  • Dario Maestripieri
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Comparative Human DevelopmentThe University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Caribbean Primate Research Center—Sabana SecaUniversity of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences CampusSabana SecaUSA
  3. 3.Caribbean Primate Research Center—Cayo SantiagoUniversity of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences CampusPunta SantiagoUSA
  4. 4.Laboratory for Primate Morphology and Genetics, Department of MedicineUniversity of Puerto Rico School of MedicineSan JuanUSA

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