Testosterone and energetics in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)

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Abstract

Ovarian function in female hominoids is sensitive to both energy flux and energy balance, resulting in a reduced probability of conception during periods when a successful reproductive outcome is less likely. However, the extent to which energetic factors constrain gonadal function in male hominoids is not clear. We examined the effects of both acute and chronic variation in energy availability on urinary testosterone (T) levels in adult male chimpanzees. Acute changes in energy availability, which were assayed by means of observational data on feeding behavior, did not result in decreased T production for 11 individuals at Kibale National Park, Uganda. Chronic energy shortages, on the other hand, may be associated with lower T levels in this population. Adult males in Kibale (n=11), who maintain suboptimal access to energy, exhibit significantly lower urinary T levels than males in captivity (n=11), who are more sedentary and better fed. These results suggest that data on hormonal function in captive chimpanzees should be interpreted with caution because individuals may produce T at levels well above those that are typical in the wild. They also suggest that short-term variations in T levels in male hominoids are more likely to be explained by social factors than by energetic ones. Am. J. Primatol. 66:119–130, 2005. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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