Reproductive strategies of the orang-utan: New data and a reconsideration of existing sociosexual models

Abstract

Recent field data indicate that MacKinnon’s model of the orang-utan’s sexual and agonistic activity needs to be revised. In this model, male reproductive activity is concentrated in an extended phase of subadulthood and in early adulthood. According to this model, the role of older adult males is primarily that of range guardian, and in that role they would ensure that the offspring they had generated earlier would have safe access to food resources. This study presents cases suggesting that subadult males, even though sexually active, may have low reproductive success. In previous studies adult males were shown to display less sexual initiative than subadult males. In this study an adult male was at times involved infrequent mating activity in response to proceptive activity of females in the course of consortship. This adult male proved to be a successful breeder, thus refuting the hypothesis of adult male sterility. The female is most likely to conceive through cooperative mating in lengthy consortships with the dominant resident adult male. We hypothesize that the extended subadult phase represents a submissive strategy, allowing subadult males to remain in the home range of adult males but with minimal reproductive success.

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Correspondence to Chris L. Schürmann.

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Schürmann, C.L., van Hooff, J.A.R.A.M. Reproductive strategies of the orang-utan: New data and a reconsideration of existing sociosexual models. Int J Primatol 7, 265–287 (1986). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02736392

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Key words

  • orang-utan
  • reproductive strategies
  • extended subadulthood
  • rape strategy
  • adult male breeding success
  • female sexual selection