Chimpanzee genital swelling and its role in the pattern of sociosexual behavior


  • Dr. Janette Wallis

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Oklahoma City
    • Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, P.O. Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK, 73190
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Behavioral observations were made on thirteen female and seven male adult group-living chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). The behavioral data were analyzed as a function of the day of the females' menstrual cycles to explore the possible interrelationship between genital swelling and sociosexual behavior of female chimpanzees.

Copulatory behavior was confined almost entirely to the period of genital swelling and the occurrence of male-to-female genital inspection (both female- and male-initiated) was negatively correlated with the days from swelling onset, i.e., as the presumed day of ovulation approached, genital inspection decreased, while copulatory behavior increased. In addition, more females groomed their male cagemates during the luteal phase than in the follicular phase of their cycles, whereas male-to-female grooming was positively correlated with the progress of the cycle, with peaks during the time of swelling onset and menstruation.

The profile of sociosexual behavior observed throughout the menstrual cycle suggested that, although chimpanzees exhibit an extended period of sexual receptivity and genital swelling, the presumed fertile period is not concealed. The role of genital swelling in chimpanzees is discussed in relation to the possible hormonal effect on female sexuality and the evolution of chimpanzee mating strategies. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.