Foraging Success, Agonism, and Predator Alarms: Behavioral Predictors of Cortisol in Lemur catta
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Primate social grouping is understood as an adaptive strategy for mitigating environmental selection pressures, but the relative importance of various pressures may vary. Physiological measures of well-being can show their short-term impacts and suggest their relative importance and capacity to provide ultimate or proximate control of group size. I examined correlations between pressures commonly proposed as causes of social grouping (foraging success, intergroup and intragroup agonism, and predation risk) and individual levels of fecal cortisol, a hormonal stress measure, in a free-ranging population of Lemur catta. I collected behavioral data on 45 female Lemur catta at Berenty Reserve, Madagascar, over 3 seasons (August 1999-July 2000) and determined individual cortisol levels from 474 fecal samples. Neither predator alarm rates nor intragroup agonism rates correlated with cortisol levels in any season. However, females with low daily food intake and high rates of escalated intergroup defense exhibited higher cortisol levels. The data suggest that acquisition and defense of food resources are principal challenges in Lemur catta, and may be important factors determining social grouping and other behavioral or life history adaptations.
KeywordsLemur catta cortisol agonism predation food intake
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