Return-benefit spite hypothesis: An explanation for sexual interference in stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides)

Abstract

Sexual interference behavior (the phenomenon of intervening with the matings of others) appears selfish in that its primary function seems to be that of improving one's reproductive fitness relative to others. In stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides), interference may be spiteful, and may contribute to the receipt of a return benefit. This is the focus of this paper.

The subjects were 58 stumptail macaques in a single group with seven matrilines. They were free-ranging, habituated to human observation, and lived on the island of Tanaxpillo at Lake Catemaco in southeastern Mexico.

During the study, tie durations (the periods where male and female genitalia remain connected following ejaculation) were significantly altered overall, being longer, on average, during matings with sexual interference, opposed to those without interference. When matings occurring in succession were divided in half, ties were significantly longer during the second half than the first half. Also, although the difference was not statistically significant, the average number of mounts required by males to reach ejaculation was greater during matings with interference than without interference. Such apparent social stress may reduce the fertility of the mating pair at some cost to the interferer.

Some individuals that interfered also used alternative mating tactics. These matings were 27% of the total, and they received interference less often than normal matings. When alternative matings were interfered with, they received significantly less interference: alternative matings received nearly eight times less interference than normal matings. The average tie duration for alternative matings without interference was also significantly less than the average tie for normal matings with interference. Alternative mating tactics appear to elicit less social stress; this may contribute to increased reproductive fitness for individuals that practice both alternative mating and sexual interference, if the latter produces a return benefit.

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Brereton, A.R. Return-benefit spite hypothesis: An explanation for sexual interference in stumptail macaques (Macaca arctoides). Primates 35, 123–136 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02382049

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Key Words

  • Macaca arctoides
  • Sexual interference
  • Return-benefit spite