First experimental evidence for female mate choice in a nocturnal primate
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Female mate choice can be hypothesised in most nocturnal primates, since females show a higher investment in their offspring than males. The aim of this experimental study was to investigate if female grey mouse lemurs perform mate choice and whether age, relatedness (to the male), or male advertisement call activity systematically influence their decisions. A two-way mate choice design was developed in which females could choose between two males. Mate choice was deduced from the time spent in proximity to the males and from mating behaviour. During oestrus 12 of 17 females participated actively in the experiment and all of them showed either a significant spatial (n=11) or behavioural (n=1) preference for one male. In four cases copulations were observed. The influence of age on female mate choice was not statistically significant. In the cases with copulations, however, females mostly preferred the older male. This might indicate a preference for older age as an indicator of experience, fitness, and/or status. The influence of relatedness on female mate choice could not be definitely clarified. However, results imply a mechanism of kin recognition on the basis of familiarity. In the majority of choices, females preferred the male with higher trill call activity. Since trill call activity correlates with the relative dominance status of males, these results suggest an importance of the male dominance status for female mate choice in grey mouse lemurs. Altogether our findings indicate that females use a complex of different cues to choose their mates.
KeywordsLemurs Female mate choice Sexual selection Microcebus murinus
We would like to acknowledge the caregiving efforts of Achim Sauer, Wolfgang Mehl, Christoph Andrijczuk and Brigitte Lohmeier in the animal husbandry facilities of the Institute of Zoology, Hannover. The experiments have complied with the ethical standards provided in the German law for animal protection. We thank Joe Manson and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the manuscript.
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