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Prenatal Androgen Effects as a Proximate Mechanism Underpinning Variation in Social Behavior Among Female Nonhuman Primates

Howlett, Caroline and Wheeler, Brandon C (2021) 'Prenatal Androgen Effects as a Proximate Mechanism Underpinning Variation in Social Behavior Among Female Nonhuman Primates.' International Journal of Primatology, 42 (2). pp. 301-329. ISSN 0164-0291

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While the role of ecological factors in shaping primate social systems has been a central focus for decades, less attention has been given to phylogenetic relationships and the potential role of underlying proximate mechanisms. This study aimed to investigate the relationship between one such proximate mechanism, prenatal androgen effects (PAEs), and aspects of social behavior in female nonhuman primates using the 2D:4D ratio as a proxy for PAEs and phylogenetically controlled methods. In general, female 2D:4D ratios were highest in monogamous species (low inferred PAEs) and lowest in polygynandrous and polygynous species (high inferred PAEs). 2D:4D ratios also varied with the form of polygyny/polygynandry, potentially with regard to the need for competitive over cooperative behaviors and the intensity of female reproductive competition. Species characterized by female dominance had lower 2D:4D ratios than species characterized by male dominance or codominance. There were no significant relationships between 2D:4D ratio and either degree of frugivory or group size. Relationships between 2D:4D ratios and the directional consistency index and 2D:4D ratios and rates of female–female agonism were also nonsignificant although sample sizes for both of these variables were small. Female social relationships are a manifestation of complex competitive and cooperative behaviors and the results suggest that PAEs may act as a proximate mechanism underlying the expression of certain aspects of behavior in female primates in ways that are adaptive to their social system.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2D:4D ratio; Phylogenetics; Sex hormones; Socioecology
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 08 Apr 2021 08:56
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 14:23

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