Adolescent impulsivity predicts adult dominance attainment in male vervet monkeys



Adolescence is characterized by behavioral and physiological changes that prepare individuals for the transition to adulthood. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of behavioral, morphological, neurobiological, and developmental characteristics of adolescent male vervets in predicting later dominance attainment. Thirty-six adolescent male vervets were tested for social impulsivity by means of the Intruder Challenge test while they were still living in their natal groups. Body weight and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) metabolites of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine were measured before they were introduced into new matrilineal breeding groups at age 5. Stable adult dominance rank was determined at age 6, 1 year following introduction. The results indicated that body weight, adolescent impulsivity, and levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA) and homovanillic acid (HVA) in CSF predicted adult dominance attainment. As expected, males that were above average in body weight prior to introduction were significantly more likely to become dominant. Males that were high in impulsivity as adolescents, and low in 5-HIAA prior to introduction were more likely to achieve stable alpha male status 1 year following introduction. The combination of these three factors resulted in correct prediction of rank attainment for 92% (33/36) of the males. Two other factors–maternal dominance rank and a measure of social anxiety from the Intruder Challenge test–were not related to adult dominance attainment in this sample. These results support the idea that there are benefits of a high-risk, high-gain strategy is beneficial for adolescent and young adult male vervets. They also demonstrate that adolescent impulsivity is age-limited. Males that achieved high rank moderated their behavior as adults, and no longer scored high in impulsivity relative to their age peers. Am. J. Primatol. 64:1;–17, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.