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Keywords:

  • woolly monkeys;
  • Lagothrix;
  • olfactory signaling;
  • reproductive competition;
  • sexual selection;
  • range advertisement

Abstract

We describe patterns of scent marking observed in two wild populations of lowland woolly monkeys that were the subjects of long-term studies in the westernmost portion of the Amazon basin. The woolly monkeys engaged primarily in two types of scent marking: chest rubbing and anogenital rubbing. In both study populations, males and females performed both types of scent marking, but males chest-rubbed more commonly than females, while females engaged in more anogenital rubbing. We evaluated two nonexclusive hypotheses for the function of scent marking by woolly monkeys: 1) that scent marking is used in sociosexual contexts, and 2) that scent marking is used to convey information about occupancy of or willingness to defend an area from conspecifics in other social groups. We found no association between the occurrence of scent-marking behavior and location within the home range, but did find that scent marking occurred more commonly than expected on days when copulations, mating solicitations, and intergroup encounters were observed. Additionally, mating activity and chest rubbing were highly correlated across the yearly cycle, even when the potentially confounding variable of ripe fruit availability was controlled for. In woolly monkeys, overt male–male competition is rare and female choice is an important part of the mating system. Our results are most consistent with the idea that scent marking plays a role in advertising male quality or competitive ability, and perhaps in coordinating mating activity. Am. J. Primatol. 68:637–649, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.