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Male coalitions and female behaviour affect male mating success independent of dominance rank and female receptive synchrony in wild Barbary macaques

Abstract

Dominant mammalian males should gain a reproductive advantage due to their greater fighting abilities. However, the extent to which they can monopolise access to females varies across species. In primates and recently other mammalian species, the Priority of Access (PoA) model is commonly used to measure the degree to which male rank and female receptive synchrony affect mating skew. Few studies have examined the factors which lead to deviations from the expectations of the model. Here, we investigate male mating skew in wild Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus). We examined four of the main factors which affect male mating success: the roles of male rank, female receptive synchrony, coalitionary activity and female behaviour. We found that male mating was skewed up the hierarchy, but there was a large deviation from the PoA model's expectations with high-ranked males not gaining as big a share as expected. Females frequently initiated sexual encounters, predominantly with mid-ranked males, increasing their mating success. Male coalitionary activity independently increased mating success. Frequent associations with females were costly to males as they were the targets of bridging coalitions, decreasing future mating opportunities for the targets. High-ranking males did not increase their mating success directly through bridging coalitions but acted to dilute the effects of female behaviour. By examining different factors affecting mating skew, we are able to show that alternative male and female mating strategies are effective in reducing the monopolisation potential of the dominant male.

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Acknowledgments

The authors are grateful to Professor Mohamed Qarro (Ecole Nationale Forestière d’Ingénieurs, Morocco) for his support in the field and the Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forêts et à la Lutte Contre la Désertification of Morocco for research permission. We would also like to thank Michael Madole, Dave Thomas, Sofia Santos, Maria Thunström, Tom Smith, Josephine Msindai and Carrie Miller for assistance in the field and Laëtitia Maréchal, Cédric Girard-Buttoz, Ines Fürtbauer and Mathias Franz for helpful comments. Furthermore, we would like to thank Dr. Elise Huchard and two anonymous referees for useful comments to significantly improve the manuscript. Financial support was provided by the Max Planck Society, the Christian Vogel Fonds and Georg-August University Göttingen through funds from the German Initiative of Excellence.

Ethical standards

This study complies with Moroccan, German and British regulations regarding the ethical treatment of research subjects.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Christopher Young.

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Communicated by E. Huchard

Oliver Schülke and Julia Ostner equally contributed to this paper.

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Young, C., Hähndel, S., Majolo, B. et al. Male coalitions and female behaviour affect male mating success independent of dominance rank and female receptive synchrony in wild Barbary macaques. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 67, 1665–1677 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00265-013-1577-7

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Keywords

  • Priority of Access model
  • Mating skew
  • Coalition
  • Female mate choice
  • Reproductive strategies
  • Macaca sylvanus