Urinary androgen and corticoid levels in captive, male Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla g. gorilla): Age- and social group-related differences

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Abstract

Urinary androgen and corticoid levels were measured for 52 captive male Western lowland gorillas to examine age-related variance and potential differences resulting from various social situations. Significant diurnal variation was present in both hormones. Age-related differences in androgens revealed that males experienced two stages of androgen increase and one stage of decrease: increases occurred from juvenile (less than 10 yr of age) to subadult (between 10–13 yr) and subadult to young adult (14–20 yr), whereas decreases occurred from young adult to adult (> 20 yr). Age-related differences in corticoid levels varied depending on the time of day, but morning corticoids were greatest in juvenile males, followed by young adult males. The type of social grouping was associated with differences in corticoid levels, as animals housed socially (in either a heterosexual or all-male group) had similar corticoid levels, whereas solitary males showed greater corticoid levels than their socially-housed counterparts. The increased levels of corticoids in solitary-housed males suggest this management strategy might not be optimal, although more data are needed. Additionally, the significantly greater levels of androgens and corticoids in young adult male gorillas may present management challenges, and thus zoos may need to consider increasing the flexibility of their current management practices with respect to males. Am. J. Primatol. 56:73–87, 2002. © 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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