Female social dominance in two Eulemur species with different social organizations



Female social dominance is rare in mammals, but common in lemurs. We investigated social dominance in two Eulemur species; the polygynous crowned lemur (E. coronatus) and the monogamous red-bellied lemur (E. rubriventer), using four and two social groups, respectively. We collected data on agonistic interactions and two types of affiliative behavior (grooming and maintaining spatial proximity). We used a combination of focal watches of individuals, instantaneous scan-sampling of groups, and all-occurrence of some behaviors in groups. We found that overall rates of agonistic interactions were higher in E. coronatus, and they also had more decided intersexual agonistic interactions than E. rubriventer. However, in both species the females won the vast majority of these agonistic interactions. E. coronatus females were groomed more often by males than vice versa, whereas no sex differences in grooming were observed in E. rubriventer. We found that males were responsible for maintaining spatial proximity in E. coronatus whereas in E. rubriventer, females were responsible. In one group of E. coronatus, the male was overweight and dominant to the female and this is the first observation of male dominance in a lemur species typically described as female dominant. We suggest that body weights in captivity be monitored for maintaining normal dominance relationships. Overall, agonistic behaviors were consistent with clear female social dominance in both E. coronatus and E. rubriventer. The affiliative behaviors also provided clear evidence for female dominance E. coronatus, but not for E. rubriventer. Zoo Biol 0: 1–14, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.