Effects of the Distribution of Female Primates on the Number of Males
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The spatiotemporal distribution of females is thought to drive variation in mating systems, and hence plays a central role in understanding animal behavior, ecology and evolution. Previous research has focused on investigating the links between female spatiotemporal distribution and the number of males in haplorhine primates. However, important questions remain concerning the importance of spatial cohesion, the generality of the pattern across haplorhine and strepsirrhine primates, and the consistency of previous findings given phylogenetic uncertainty. To address these issues, we examined how the spatiotemporal distribution of females influences the number of males in primate groups using an expanded comparative dataset and recent advances in Bayesian phylogenetic and statistical methods. Specifically, we investigated the effect of female distributional factors (female number, spatial cohesion, estrous synchrony, breeding season duration and breeding seasonality) on the number of males in primate groups. Using Bayesian approaches to control for uncertainty in phylogeny and the model of trait evolution, we found that the number of females exerted a strong influence on the number of males in primate groups. In a multiple regression model that controlled for female number, we found support for temporal effects, particularly involving female estrous synchrony: the number of males increases when females are more synchronously receptive. Similarly, the number of males increases in species with shorter birth seasons, suggesting that greater breeding seasonality makes defense of females more difficult for male primates. When comparing primate suborders, we found only weak evidence for differences in traits between haplorhines and strepsirrhines, and including suborder in the statistical models did not affect our conclusions or give compelling evidence for different effects in haplorhines and strepsirrhines. Collectively, these results demonstrate that male monopolization is driven primarily by the number of females in groups, and secondarily by synchrony of female reproduction within groups.
Laurel Mariah Carnes is with University of Chicago, Charles L. Nunn is with Harvard University, Rebecca J. Lewis is with UT Austin.
CitationCarnes LM, Nunn CL, Lewis RJ (2011) Effects of the Distribution of Female Primates on the Number of Males. PLoS ONE 6(5): e19853. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0019853
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