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Keywords:

  • reproductive suppression;
  • parturition;
  • infant care;
  • estrogen;
  • luteinizing hormone;
  • aggression;
  • scent marking;
  • social behavior

Abstract

Reproductive suppression of females is found throughout the Callitrichids. However, in many species some evidence of ovarian activity is observed in subordinate females. Subordinate cotton-top tamarin females in our colony have never been observed to ovulate in the presence of a reproductive female. However, ovarian follicular development does occur, and measurable levels of urinary estrogen and luteinizing hormone are frequently found in subordinate females. We studied 11 female tamarins living in family groups with a reproductive female. Each of the 8 eldest daughters had measurable urinary estrogen and LH levels and showed a reduction of hormonal levels when new infants were born. The 3 younger daughters showed barely detectable hormonal levels that did not change. Following the birth of infants the eldest daughters scent marked less frequently, increased time in contact with and grooming group members other than the mother, but they were more often targets of aggression than immediately prior to infant births. The eldest daughters were somewhat less involved in care of new infants than expected, although they spent much time in proximity to those carrying the infants. These results suggest that the further reduction of hormonal levels in subordinate females after the birth of infants may function to prevent these females from competing with mothers during the post-partum estrus rather than recruiting the eldest daughters as helpers for infant care. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.