Perineal swelling, intermenstrual cycle, and female sexual behavior in bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Authors

  • T. Paoli,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centro Interdipartimentale Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
    2. Dipartimento Etologia, Ecologia ed Evoluzione, Unità di Antropologia, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
    • Centro Interdipartimentale Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, via Roma 79, 56011 Calci (Pisa), Italy
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  • E. Palagi,

    1. Centro Interdipartimentale Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
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  • G. Tacconi,

    1. Centro Interdipartimentale Museo di Storia Naturale e del Territorio, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
    2. Dipartimento Etologia, Ecologia ed Evoluzione, Unità di Antropologia, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
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  • S. Borgognini Tarli

    1. Dipartimento Etologia, Ecologia ed Evoluzione, Unità di Antropologia, Università di Pisa, Pisa, Italy
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Abstract

Many reports have claimed that the duration of the swelling cycle in female bonobos (Pan paniscus) is longer than that of chimpanzees, and that the bonobo maximum swelling phase is markedly prolonged. Field data on intermenstrual intervals (IMIs) in female bonobos are limited and restricted to interswelling intervals (ISIs), which are assumed to reflect the IMI, though a direct comparison between the duration of ISIs and IMIs is still lacking. Reports on bonobo sexual activity as a function of the swelling phase are often contradictory. Moreover, the function of female homosexual interactions (genito-genital (GG) rubbing) is still debated. This study examines the reliability of the ISI as an approximation of the IMI, and the attractivity of female sexual swellings for other individuals. An analysis of 51 ISI-IMI pairs showed that ISIs are a fair representation of the reproductive cycle. The cycle length was 35.6±1.1 SE days relying on the ISI, whereas it was 35.0±1.1 SE days considering the IMI. This result is similar to the cycle length reported for chimpanzees. Female homosexual interactions and copulatory rates were higher during maximum tumescence, suggesting that the sexual swelling may be attractive for both males and other females. Furthermore, the GG-rubbing was performed free of a hierarchical postural imposition, and was not correlated with affinitive interactions. We suggest that GG-rubbing, which is generally the most frequent female sexual interaction, is a tool for social assessments among females. Am. J. Primatol. 67:333–347, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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