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Keywords:

  • chimpanzee;
  • male investment strategy;
  • grooming;
  • parity;
  • age;
  • estrus

Abstract

Copulation preferences in our closest living relative, the chimpanzee, suggest that males prefer older females who have had previous offspring. However, this finding is counter to some behavioral models, which predict that chimpanzee males, as promiscuous breeders with minimal costs to mating, should show little or no preference when choosing mating partners (e.g. should mate indiscriminately). To determine if the preferences indicated by copulations appear in other contexts as well as how they interact, we examined how male chimpanzees' grooming patterns varied amongst females. We found that males' preferences were based on interactions among females' fertility status, age, and parity. First, grooming increased with increasing female parity. We further found an effect of the estrous cycle on grooming; when females were at the lowest point of their cycle, males preferentially groomed parous females at peak reproductive age, but during maximal tumescence, males preferred the oldest multiparous females. Nulliparous females received relatively little grooming regardless of age or fertility. Thus, male chimpanzees apparently chose grooming partners based on both female's experience and fertility, possibly indicating a two-pronged social investment strategy. Male selectivity seems to have evolved to effectively distribute costly social resources in a pattern which may increase their overall reproductive success. Am. J. Primatol. 73:989–996, 2011. © 2011 Wiley- phen;Liss, Inc.