Different ontogenetic patterns of testosterone production reflect divergent male reproductive strategies in chimpanzees and bonobos.
Male reproductive effort is often strongly related to levels of the steroid hormone testosterone. However, little research has examined whether levels of testosterone throughout development might be tied to individual or species differences in the reproductive strategies pursued by adult males. Here, we tested the hypothesis that inter-specific differences in male reproductive strategy are associated with differences in the pattern of testosterone production throughout early life and puberty. We compared testosterone levels from infancy to adulthood in two closely related species where levels of mating competition and male-male aggression differ significantly, bonobos (Pan paniscus) and chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). We predicted that the reduction in male mating competition found in bonobos would be accompanied by a lesser developmental increase in testosterone production. We performed radioimmunoassay of salivary testosterone levels in a mixed-longitudinal sample of both species, collected from individuals living in semi free-ranging populations. This allowed us to examine the effects of development in a more naturalistic setting than possible in a zoo or laboratory. We found that among chimpanzees, testosterone levels declined slightly from infancy to juvenility, then remained low until increasing markedly during adolescence (with pubertal increases most pronounced among males). In contrast, there was little change in testosterone production with age in bonobos of either sex, with levels of testosterone consistent throughout infancy, juvenility, and the transition to adulthood. Our data are therefore consistent with the hypothesis that the ontogenetic pattern of testosterone production can be subject to rapid evolutionary change, shifting in association with species differences in male reproductive strategy.
Wobber, V; Hare, B; Lipson, S; Wrangham, R; Ellison, P
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