Female tactics to reduce sexual harassment in the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelii)


Orangutan males demonstrate intrasexual dimorphism with corresponding alternative mating strategies. Sexual harassment is the predominant feature of the mating strategy that subadult males pursue. This study investigated the countertactics that females employ to reduce sexual harassment by subadult males. I observed 207 copulations during more than 9,000 h of focal follows of wild Sumatran orangutans at the Suaq Balimbing Research Station over a 23-month period. Rates of copulations initiated by subadult males increased during months of high fruit abundance, and most mating attempts were directed toward females with weaned infants. Simultaneous harassment by multiple subadult males increased significantly during months of high fruit abundance, and nearly all adult female–adult male consortships occurred during periods of high fruit abundance. Females who maintained spatial association with adult males, either via consortship or by nonmating temporary parties, received lower rates of harassment, as measured by the success rate of subadult male mating attempts. Adult female–adult male parties did not always result in mating between the associating dyad. Female initiation of protective services by adult males is one social tactic that female orangutans employ to reduce sexual harassment. Females therefore receive direct services from adult males, which may be one factor that influences female mate choice in Sumatran orangutans.

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Fox, E.A. Female tactics to reduce sexual harassment in the Sumatran orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus abelii). Behav Ecol Sociobiol 52, 93–101 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-002-0495-x

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  • Pongo pygmaeus abelii Harassment Female countertactics Mate choice