Determinants of behavioral rhythmicity during artificial menstrual cycles in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta)

Authors

  • Dr. Richard P. Michael,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychiatry, Emory University School of Medicine and The Georgia Mental Health Institute, Atlanta
    • Department of Psychiatry, Emory University School of Medicine, 1256 Briarcliff Road, N.E., Atlanta, GA 30306
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  • Doris Zumpe

    1. Department of Psychiatry, Emory University School of Medicine and The Georgia Mental Health Institute, Atlanta
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Abstract

Reproductive success in many mammals depends on synchrony between copulation and ovulation, which is insured by the phenomenon of heat in the female. Certain anthropoid primates including rhesus monkeys do not show heat but may copulate throughout the menstrual cycle, especially when pairs are isolated from conspecifics. In social groups, however, mating mostly occurs around midcycle. We wished to test the hypothesis that copulations are more closely linked to ovulation when males have simultaneous access to several females in different cycle phases. Artificial menstrual cycles were therefore induced by giving hormones to ovariectomized female rhesus monkeys observed in small social groups that each consisted of four females and one male. The cycles of two hormone-treated femlab in each group were either made to synchronize or be offset by 7-day increments so that the estradiol peak of one female occurred 7 days before, and 7 and 14 days after, the estradiol peak of the other. Radioimmunoassay of plasma samples (N = 224) confirmed the timing of the estradiol peaks. Results from eight unique male-female groups (4 males, 8 females, 16 male-female pairs, 718 tests) fully supported the hypothesis. Compared with synchronized cycles, the amplitudes of rhythmic changes in offset cycles were reduced for ejaculations made by males but greatly enhanced for ejaculations received by females. We propose that this socio-hormonal integration of behavior in the group is highly adaptive and enhances the reproductive success of both males and females.

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