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Keywords:

  • callitrichid;
  • cooperative breeding;
  • marmoset;
  • reproductive suppression;
  • urinary steroids

Abstract

Behavioral and endocrine suppression of reproduction in subordinate females produces the high reproductive skew that characterizes callitrichid primate mating systems. Snowdon et al. [American Journal of Primatology 31:11–21, 1993] reported that the eldest daughters in tamarin families exhibit further endocrinological suppression immediately following the birth of siblings, and suggested that dominant females exert greater control over subordinate endocrinology during this energetically challenging phase of reproduction. We monitored the endocrine status of five Wied's black tufted-ear marmoset daughters before and after their mother delivered infants by measuring concentrations of urinary estradiol (E2), pregnanediol glucuronide (PdG), testosterone (T), and cortisol (CORT). Samples were collected from marmoset daughters 4 weeks prior to and 9 weeks following three consecutive sibling-litter births when the daughters were prepubertal (M=6.1 months of age), peripubertal (M=11.9 months), and postpubertal (M=17.6 months). The birth of infants was associated with reduced ovarian steroid excretion only in the prepubertal daughters. In contrast, ovarian steroid levels tended to increase in the postpubertal daughters. Urinary E2 and T levels in the postpubertal daughters were 73.8% and 37.6% higher, respectively, in the 3 weeks following the birth of infants, relative to prepartum levels. In addition, peak urinary PdG concentrations in peri- and postpubertal daughters were equivalent to luteal phase concentrations in nonpregnant, breeding adult females, and all of the peri- and postpubertal daughters showed clear ovulatory cycles. Cortisol excretion did not change in response to the reproductive status of the mother, nor did the concentrations change across age. Our data suggest that marmoset daughters of potential breeding age are not hormonally suppressed during the mother's peripartum period or her return to fertility. These findings provide an additional example of species diversity in the social regulation of reproduction in callitrichid primates. Am. J. Primatol. 64:29–37, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.