Non-human primates avoid the detrimental effects of prenatal androgen exposure in mixed-sex litters: combined demographic, behavioral, and genetic analyses.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Producing single versus multiple births has important life history trade-offs, including the potential benefits and risks of sharing a common in utero environment. Sex hormones can diffuse through amniotic fluid and fetal membranes, and females with male littermates risk exposure to high levels of fetal testosterone, which are shown to have masculinizing effects and negative fitness consequences in many mammals. Whereas most primates give birth to single offspring, several New World monkey and strepsirrhine species regularly give birth to small litters. We examined whether neonatal testosterone exposure might be detrimental to females in mixed-sex litters by compiling data from long-term breeding records for seven primate species (Saguinus oedipus; Varecia variegata, Varecia rubra, Microcebus murinis, Mirza coquereli, Cheirogaleus medius, Galago moholi). Litter sex ratios did not differ from the expected 1:2:1 (MM:MF:FF for twins) and 1:2:2:1 (MMM:MMF:MFF:FFF for triplets). Measures of reproductive success, including female survivorship, offspring-survivorship, and inter-birth interval, did not differ between females born in mixed-sex versus all-female litters, indicating that litter-producing non-human primates, unlike humans and rodents, show no signs of detrimental effects from androgen exposure in mixed sex litters. Although we found no evidence for CYP19A1 gene duplications-a hypothesized mechanism for coping with androgen exposure-aromatase protein evolution shows patterns of convergence among litter-producing taxa. That some primates have effectively found a way to circumvent a major cost of multiple births has implications for understanding variation in litter size and life history strategies across mammals.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bradley, BJ; Snowdon, CT; McGrew, WC; Lawler, RR; Guevara, EE; McIntosh, A; O'Connor, T

Published Date

  • December 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 78 / 12

Start / End Page

  • 1304 - 1315

PubMed ID

  • 27434275

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-2345

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0275-2565

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/ajp.22583


  • eng