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Keywords:

  • receptive period;
  • consortships;
  • assessment of female reproductive status;
  • paternity confusion;
  • sexual conflict;
  • Semnopithecus entellus

Abstract

In species with a high risk of infanticide, a conflict of interest exists between the sexes over the amount of paternity information that is available to males. While females are expected to keep males unaware of their reproductive status in order to confuse paternity, selection should favor those male traits that enhance the males' assessment of female status and consequently of paternity probability. In Hanuman langurs (Semnopithecus entellus), a species that is extremely vulnerable to infanticide, females have been shown to successfully conceal the exact timing of ovulation from males--perhaps because they exhibit no sexual swelling and mate during all reproductive phases, including gestation. Nevertheless, it remains unclear whether males have hitherto unrecognized information about females' reproductive condition on a broader level that could still enhance male reproductive success. We investigated male assessment of female reproductive states in a population of wild Hanuman langurs as indicated by changes in male behavior, such as rates of copulations, anogenital inspections, and consortships, in relation to different female receptive periods (pregnant, fertile-nonconceptional, and conceptional). Our data indicate that males were able to discern qualitatively distinct reproductive states. Males were more interested in fertile than pregnant females, as indicated by higher copulation rates. Based on consortships, males distinguished fertile from nonfertile phases, as well as fertile, nonconceptional receptive periods from conceptional ones. Hanuman langur males are thus not as unaware of female reproductive condition as previously thought, supporting the idea of an ongoing battle of the sexes over paternity information. However, granting some knowledge while at the same time concealing the exact day of ovulation may also reflect a pure female strategy of balancing paternity concentration with paternity confusion, which is the most likely strategy in this system with high infanticide risk and male defense of infants. Am. J. Primatol. 68:701–712, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.