Social behavior and genital swelling in pregnant chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes)

Authors

  • Janette Wallis,

    Corresponding author
    1. Institute for Primate Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Oklahoma, Norman
    • Department of Psychology, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, 73019
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  • W. B. Lemmon

    1. Institute for Primate Studies, University of Oklahoma, Norman
    2. Department of Psychology, University of Oklahoma, Norman
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Abstract

Previous reports of increased sexual activity associated with genital swelling during chimpanzee pregnancy have suggested that the tumescent pregnant female may be regarded as a regularly cycling estrous female. Analysis of additional data from seven pregnant and eight cycling females, however, indicated that tumescent pregnant females differed from cycling females in some social interactions with males. As in earlier reports, pregnant females were more receptive to male-initiated copulatory bouts. In addition, pregnant females initiated grooming bouts with males much less frequently than did cycling females, and males spent less time grooming and less frequently inspected the genitals of pregnant than cycling cagemates. This tendency to decrease social interaction during pregnancy is consistent with field reports that pregnant chimpanzees prefer the company of their offspring and other noncycling females. In addition, the genital swelling patterns of 40 chimpanzee pregnancies were analyzed. Length of gestation averaged 231.5 days. Although a high degree of individual variation existed, females were swollen an average of 41% of the days observed, yet reached maximum swelling only 8.7% of the time. Genital swelling was less frequent during the third trimester, averaging 50.5, 47.9, and 22.6% tumescent days in each trimester. Young pregnant females showed maximum swelling more often than did older females. This finding is discussed with respect to field reports of intercommunity transfer of young, tumescent female chimpanzees.

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