Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 69, Issue 11, pp 1749–1759 | Cite as

Post-copulatory grooming: a conditional mating strategy?

  • Ruth S. SonnweberEmail author
  • Jorg J. M. Massen
  • W. Tecumseh Fitch
Original Article


Animals of diverse taxa show different conditional mating strategies: they adjust their behaviour according to social and environmental situations, which may bring diverse (fitness) advantages for an individual. Especially in primates, mating is often associated with other social behaviours, such as grooming. Here, we study Barbary macaque post-copulatory grooming: we investigate for the first time whether males and females modify their grooming initiations after mating depending to the type of copulation (i.e. with or without ejaculation) and female lactation state. Our results show that males and females adjust grooming initiations conditional on copulation type, with males initiating grooming after copulations with ejaculation and females after non-ejaculatory mating. Moreover, lactating females tend to start grooming the males they just mated with more than vice versa, whereas there is no such a difference for grooming initiations after copulations with non-lactating females. These data indicate that Barbary macaques show post-mating grooming strategies that vary depending on the type of copulation that occurred and in dependence of female reproductive state. These grooming initiation patterns may reflect sex-specific mating interests and potentially serve to increase fitness: females, in particular lactating females, may benefit from initiating grooming to secure protection for themselves and their offspring and reduce harassment. Males may profit from grooming females after ejaculatory copulation by keeping them from mating with another male and thus potentially decreasing sperm competition.


Barbary macaques Mating Ejaculatory copulations Non-ejaculatory copulations Single mount ejaculations 



The authors were supported by ERC Advanced Grant no. 230604 SOMACCA (awarded to WTF), a grant of the Austrian Science Foundation (FWF no. P26806-B22 to JJMM) and an Anniversary Fund 2014 grant from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (awarded to WTF and RSS). We thank the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society for permission to perform the study, and we are particularly grateful to Eric Shaw, Dale Laguea and Damian Holmes for their continuous support throughout the data collection periods. We thank Mark O’Hara, Andrea Ravignani, Gesche Westphal-Fitch, two anonymous reviewers and Roland Noë for helpful comments on the manuscript and statistics. The manuscript was written in loving memory of our dear colleague Kathrin Brauch, whose initial idea spurred this project.

Ethical standards

All applicable international, national and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. The nature of the study was purely observational: No invasive methodologies were applied at any point of the study. The Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) approved data collection for the study. All procedures were in accordance with British, Austrian and European Union law.

Supplementary material

265_2015_1987_MOESM1_ESM.doc (41 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 41 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth S. Sonnweber
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jorg J. M. Massen
    • 1
  • W. Tecumseh Fitch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive BiologyUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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