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Keywords:

  • Milne-Edwards' sifaka;
  • olfactory communication;
  • infanticide;
  • dominance status;
  • natal status;
  • sexual selection

Abstract

In this study we compared the scent-marking rates of females with those of males. Specifically, we examined the ability of season, dominance status, and natal status to explain the frequency of scent marking in female sifakas living wild in Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar, and compared the results with those published for males [Pochron et al., American Journal of Primatology, in press]. We also sought to determine whether vulnerability to infanticide affects marking frequency in adults of either sex, and whether female reproductive status affects female marking behavior. We found that males marked at twice the rate of females, and like males, females in single-female groups marked at the highest rates. Dominant females and non-natal females marked at higher rates than did subordinate females and natal females, a pattern also seen in males. This suggests that scent marks may convey important information about status. Neither females nor males varied their marking frequency with the presence of vulnerable infants. Females did not alter marking frequency with reproductive state, and like males, they marked at higher rates in the period prior to the mating season than they did in the mating season itself. This implies that females may use scent marks more for intrasexual aggression or territoriality than for mate attraction. Am. J. Primatol. 66:97–110, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.