Sources of variance in a female fertility signal: Exaggerated estrous swellings in a natural population of baboons

Journal Article

Signals of fertility in female animals are of increasing interest to evolutionary biologists, a development that coincides with increasing interest in male mate choice and the potential for female traits to evolve under sexual selection. We characterized variation in size of an exaggerated female fertility signal in baboons and investigated the sources of that variance. The number of sexual cycles that a female had experienced after her most recent pregnancy ("cycles since resumption") was the strongest predictor of swelling size. Furthermore, the relationship between cycles since resumption and swelling size was most evident during rainy periods and was not evident during times of drought. Finally, we found significa nt differences in swelling size between individual females; these differences endured across cycles (i.e., were not explained by variation within individuals) and persisted in spite of ecological effects. This study is the first to provide conclusive evidence of significant variation in swelling size between female primates (controlling for cycles since resumption) and to demonstrate that ecological constraints influence variation in this signal of fertility. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Fitzpatrick, CL; Altmann, J; Alberts, SC

Published Date

  • January 1, 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 68 / 7

Start / End Page

  • 1109 - 1122

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0340-5443

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/s00265-014-1722-y

Citation Source

  • Scopus