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Keywords:

  • ring-tailed lemur;
  • Lemur catta;
  • sexual coercion;
  • male mating strategies;
  • female dominance

Abstract

In this article we document male sexual coercion of a Lemur catta female on St. Catherines Island (SCI), USA. Data presented in this paper were collected on one free-ranging L. catta group during October–November 2002 using all-occurrences sampling for agonism and reproductive behavior. We observed a male forcefully attempting to mate with a year-old estrous female. Despite the fact that we observed this female to present to the male during her estrus, throughout the episode the male employed the use of force, and achieved penile intromission on at least one occasion while the female struggled and resisted. We interpret his behavior as sexual coercion. As measured by sexual presents, the female appeared to more strongly prefer two other males as mates, yet each of these males gained fewer mounts and less cumulative time spent in mounts than the coercive male. The coercive male was one of two group males with the lowest observed mating success, suggesting that coercion might be a strategy used by males who are not highly sexually preferred. Females undergo early sexual maturation at this site owing to provisioning, and can therefore enter estrus before fully attaining dominance over males. As such, these data suggest that one consequence of provisioning a wild L. catta population (or of maintaining L. catta in captivity) may be that young females can be the targets of sexual coercion if they reach sexual maturity before fully achieving social dominance over males. In conclusion, male sexual coercion can occur in L. catta despite the female dominance characteristic of this species, and can constrain the mating behavior of females. Am. J. Primatol. 70:1187–1190, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.