International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 389–406 | Cite as

Can the Patterns of Sexual Swelling Cycles in Female Taï Chimpanzees be Explained by the Cost-of-Sexual-Attraction Hypothesis?

  • Tobias DeschnerEmail author
  • Christophe Boesch


Chimpanzee females of East and West African populations differ in the average number of cycles per interbirth interval. Whereas females in Gombe, Mahale, and Kibale (eastern chimpanzees, Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) average <9 cycles before they conceive, females at Taï (western chimpanzees; Pan troglodytes verus) average 29 cycles. We examined data from 2 different study groups (North and South) at Taï. By showing that Taï females interrupt cyclic activity for, on average, 7.4 mo between the end of the postpartum amenorrhea period (PPA) and the subsequent conception, and by calculating the number of cycles to conception based on a probability distribution of cycles over the interbirth interval, we show that Taï females average 19.4 cycles (North Group) and 11.7 cycles (South Group) to conception; therefore, the earlier calculation of 29 cycles was an overestimate. Further, at Taï young parous females have a significantly shorter PPA than those of older females, but the number of cycles to conception does not differ significantly between primiparous and nulliparous females. Some of our results are therefore not in line with the predictions of the cost-of-sexual-attraction hypothesis, which proposes that the factor ultimately responsible for the intensity of female sexual attractiveness is female intragroup scramble competition. We discuss an alternative hypothesis—the social passport hypothesis—which is compatible with the results of the study.


chimpanzee postpartum amenorrhea period reproduction sexual swellings 



We thank the Ministry of the Environment and Forests as well as the Ministry of Research of Côte d’Ivoire, the directorship of the Taï National Park, and the Swiss Research Center in Abidjan. For long-term data collection we thank Nohon Gregoire Kohon, Honora Néné, Nicaise Oulaï Daurid, Camille Bolé, Valentin Yagnon, and Benjamin Gouclaon. We thank D. Stahl for help with the statistical analysis; D. Zinner, M. Heistermann, B. Bradley, M. Arandjelovic, and 2 anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on the manuscript; and J. Rist and J. Scheller for creation of the database. The Max Planck Society provided funding for the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.German Primate CentreGöttingenGermany

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