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Keywords:

  • whole blood serotonin;
  • testosterone;
  • cortisol;
  • dominance

Abstract

This study examined the relationship between dominance rank and several physiological and behavioral measures in stable, captive, all-male squirrel monkey groups. Four groups, each containing three males, were observed for 12 weeks during the breeding season. Relative dominance ranking among males in each group was based on the direction of agonistic behaviors displayed. For each subject, whole blood serotonin (WBS), plasma testosterone (T), and cortisol (C) were sampled 4 to 6 times over the course of the study. Samples were separated by 1- to 2-week intervals. Each group had a stable linear dominance hierarchy. WBS had small intraanimal variance and was positively related to dominance rank. In contrast, T and C were highly variable within subjects and were unrelated to dominance rank. Among alpha males, concentrations of T and C were positively correlated, and WBS and C were negatively correlated. The effect of dominance rank on the relationship between within-animal fluctuations in WBS, T, and C and behavior was also assessed. In dominant, but not subordinate subjects, intraanimal fluctuations in WBS correlated with agonistic behavior initiated, and fluctuations in C and T correlated with huddling. In beta and gamma males, C was related to agonism received, and in gamma males to food stealing received. Dominance status also affected endocrine response to the stress of capture but not the rate of sneezing. Sneezing was positively correlated with T concentrations irrespective of dominance rank. These results extend the association between WBS and dominance rank previously reported in Old World monkeys to a New World monkey species, support previous suggestions that mean T and C titers are not reflective of dominance rank in well-established groups, and indicate that dominance rank affects adrenocortical response to the stress associated with capture and anesthesia.