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Intrasexual selection in Mirza coquereli : evidence for scramble competition polygyny in a solitary primate

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The primates of Madagascar (Lemuriformes) deviate from fundamental predictions of sexual selection theory in that polygynous species lack sexual dimorphism, have even adult sex ratios and often live in female-dominated societies. It has been hypothesized that intrasexual selection in these species is either reduced or primarily focused on traits related to scramble competition. The goal of this study was to examine these hypotheses by studying the mating system of a solitary nocturnal species, Mirzacoquereli. During a 4-year field study in western Madagascar, I captured and followed 88 individually marked animals. I found that adult males were significantly larger than females, providing the first evidence for sexual size dimorphism in lemurs. In addition, the adult sex ratio was biased in favour of females in 3 out of 4 years. There was no significant sex difference in canine size, however. Males showed pronounced seasonal variation in testis size with a 5-fold increase before and during the short annual mating season. During the mating season, males had more injuries than females and more than quadrupled their home ranges, overlapping with those of more than ten females, but also with about the same number of rivals. Only about one social interaction per 10 h of observation was recorded, but none of them were matings. Together, these results indicate that these solitary lemurs are clearly subject to intrasexual selection and that male-male competition is primarily, but not exclusively, of the scramble type. In addition, they suggest that the above-mentioned idiosyncracies may be limited to group-living lemurs, that social systems of solitary primates are more diverse than previously thought, and that the temporal distribution of receptive females is responsible for this particular male mating strategy.

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Received: 11 January 1997 / Accepted after revision: 18 April 1997

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Kappeler, P. Intrasexual selection in Mirza coquereli : evidence for scramble competition polygyny in a solitary primate. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 41, 115–127 (1997).

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