The Evolution of Extended Sexual Receptivity in Chimpanzees: Variation, Male-Female Associations, and Hormonal Correlates
Sexual conflict occurs when female and male fitness interests diverge. In a social system characterized by aggressive sexual coercion and the risk of infanticide, female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) respond to this conflict by exhibiting an exaggerated sexual swelling that advertises sexual receptivity while concealing the exact timing of ovulation. Sexual swellings impose significant costs, yet can persist into pregnancy. Records from long-term studies of eastern chimpanzees (P. t. schweinfurthii) in Gombe National Park, TZ, and Kibale National Park, UG, provide data on postconception swellings, while data on group composition and behaviors such as mating, grooming, and aggression are drawn from the Gombe database only. Throughout, I use linear mixed models to simultaneously test multiple effects while controlling for repeated measures of individuals. In Chapter 1, I tested whether variation in females’ vulnerability to infanticide and aggression predicted the amount of swelling during pregnancy. In Chapter 2, I examined female-male relationships across reproductive states to ask whether females can better gain benefits and avoid costs by affiliating promiscuously with all males, or by investing in relationships with preferred males. Finally, I analyzed metabolites of reproductive hormones using urine samples from pregnant females in both populations to build a hormonal profile of postconception swellings. Swellings during pregnancy increase female-male association, and are caused by the same basic hormonal mechanism as preconception swellings, though they occur in a very different hormonal milieu. Females at greater risk of infanticide and intrasexual aggression swell more during pregnancy. Females mate promiscuously before conception, but during pregnancy and lactation, preferentially groom with males that are likely to protect them from aggression and infanticide. Based on these and other findings, I conclude that postconception swellings in chimpanzees are an adaptive response to sexual conflict.
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