Mutual mate choice in a female-dominant and sexually monomorphic primate

Authors

  • Doris Gomez,

    1. UMR 7179 CNRS—MNHN, Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Brunoy, France
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    • These authors contributed equally.

  • Elise Huchard,

    Corresponding author
    1. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Göttingen, Germany
    2. Courant Research Centre “Evolution of Social Behavior,” Georg-August-University, Göttingen, Germany
    • Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Unit, German Primate Center, Kellnerweg 4, 37077 Göttingen, Germany
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    • These authors contributed equally.

  • Pierre-Yves Henry,

    1. UMR 7179 CNRS—MNHN, Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Brunoy, France
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  • Martine Perret

    1. UMR 7179 CNRS—MNHN, Département Ecologie et Gestion de la Biodiversité, Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Brunoy, France
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Abstract

Sexual dimorphism is common in polygynous species, where intrasexual competition is often thought to drive the evolution of large male body size, and in turn, male behavioral dominance over females. In Madagascar, the entire lemur radiation, which embraces diverse mating systems, lacks sexual dimorphism and exhibits frequent female dominance over males. The evolution of such morphological and behavioral peculiarities, often referred to as “the lemur syndrome,” has proven difficult to understand. Among other hypotheses, a potential role of intersexual selection has been repeatedly proposed but hardly ever tested. Here, we investigate whether female choice favors small and compliant males, and whether male choice favors large females in captive gray mouse lemurs (Microcebus murinus). Detailed analysis of a combination of behavioral observations and hormonal data available for both sexes shows that (1) females accept more matings from males with higher fighting abilities, (2) males adjust their investment in intrasexual competition to female fertility, and (3) both male and female strategies are weakly influenced by the body mass of potential partners, in directions contradicting our predictions. These results do not suggest a prominent role of intersexual selection in the evolution and maintenance of the lemur syndrome but rather point to alternative mechanisms relating to male–male competition, specifically highlighting an absence of relationship between male body mass and fighting ability. Finally, our findings add to the growing body of evidence suggesting flexible sex roles, by showing the expression of mutual mate choice in a female-dominant, sexually monomorphic and promiscuous primate. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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