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Keywords:

  • female dominance;
  • Propithecus ssp.;
  • lemurs;
  • sifaka;
  • evolution

Abstract

Many lemur species are characterized by some form of female dominance, ranging from female feeding priority to complete female dominance, although this is a rare trait in primates and other mammals. The status of the Milne-Edwards' sifaka (Propithecus diadema edwardsi), a diurnal lemur, is ambiguous. Some short-term studies have found little or no aggression. The aim of the current, long-term study was to quantify the intersexual-dominance patterns of this sifaka. The distribution, outcome, and context of aggressive interactions were studied in four groups of wild sifakas. The majority of intersexual aggressive interactions were decided, with the loser expressing submissive behavior. Intersexual aggressive interactions occurred in all social contexts, and within all social contexts the females won the vast majority (92.7–96.0%) of aggressive interactions. While aggression rates were low (0.22/hr), this evidence suggests female dominance. We propose that female dominance exists because it provides a fitness advantage to both males and females. Am. J. Primatol. 61:173–185, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.