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Male-inflicted wounds have opposite effects on hair cortisol for captive male and female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) following new group formation


Sexual dimorphism in body size, aggression, and dispersal patterns may affect the degree to which males and females perceive aggression from either sex as stressful. Whereas male macaques typically disperse to new groups at maturity, thus encountering many unfamiliar individuals of both sexes, females are philopatric, usually only encountering unfamiliar males who transfer into their natal groups. In rare circumstances, however, group fusions can expose both males and females to many novel individuals, which often increases aggression. Here, we use a captive new group formation of rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) as a model of social instability during fusions and examine differences in male and female chronic stress responses to male-pattern and female-pattern trauma (i.e., trauma inflicted by males or by females, respectively). We found that male- but not female-pattern traumas predicted hair cortisol concentrations during the first 9 months after new group formation, but in opposite ways for males and females. A greater number of male-pattern traumas was linked to elevated hair cortisol concentrations in females but slightly lower hair cortisol concentrations in males. We suggest that the apparent importance of male-pattern trauma, but not female-pattern-trauma, in predicting higher hair cortisol concentrations in females can be attributed to the more acutely intense but less persistent nature of male aggression toward females.

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This work was supported by two research Grants to JBL from the Department of Anthropology at UC Davis and by a UC Davis Faculty Research Grant to LAI. The lab in which hair cortisol analysis was performed is supported by NIH R01HD068335 (McCowan). We thank the CNPRC staff who assisted in hair sample collection, those who collected and maintained colony records used in this study, E. Van Cleave, M. Tran, R. Montez, E. Rivera, L. Milgrom, H. Martyn, J. Hook, and M. Gelatos for help with hair processing, B. Beisner, J. Vandeleest, and D. Hannibal for helpful discussion, and H. Martin for assistance with statistical analyses. The CNPRC is funded by the base Grant P51OD011157.

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Correspondence to Julie B. Linden.

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All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the studies were conducted. All procedures were approved by the Animal Care and Use Committee of the University of California, Davis. Hair sample collections were conducted under IACUC protocol #18090.

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Linden, J.B., McCowan, B., Capitanio, J.P. et al. Male-inflicted wounds have opposite effects on hair cortisol for captive male and female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) following new group formation. Primates 60, 51–62 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-018-0703-6

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  • Group fusion
  • Wounding
  • Trauma
  • Social instability
  • Cercopithecine primates