Non-lactating versus lactating females: a comparison of sex steroids, sexual coloration, and sexual behavior in Japanese macaques
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Female Japanese macaques are seasonal breeders distinguished by their red-colored hindquarters, face, and nipple skin areas. Intensity of coloration seems to be associated with sexual attractiveness, behavior, and fluctuating sex steroids. Our aim was to investigate whether the color intensity of these regions differed between lactating (LA) and non-lactating (NLA) females during sexually inactive (SI) and active (SA) phases. Coloration scores of 19 adult females were classified using color tables. Estrogen and progesterone metabolites were determined in fecal samples. Weekly comparison between both groups revealed significantly increased coloration of the hindquarters area from week 13 (SI) until the end of the observation period, and for the nipple skin throughout the SI and SA periods. Face coloration differed marginally. Hormonally, NLA females showed significantly increased excretion rates of sex steroids at the end of the SI phase and throughout the whole SA period. Logistic regression analyses between elevated fecal steroids and nipple coloration disclosed a significant relationship for NLA females during the SI period. This connection persisted and included hindquarter coloration during the SA period. NLA females showed increased intromission with ejaculation, but no difference was found for intromission without ejaculation. In conclusion, results demonstrate increased endocrine excretion rates for NLA females during the whole observation period, paralleled by an enhanced, fertility-signaling sexual attractiveness.
KeywordsLactation Sexual coloration Sexual attractiveness Fecal sex steroid Macaques
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