Sexual Behaviour of Sumatran Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis)


Laboratorium voor vergelijkende fysiologie, Rijksuniversiteit Utrecht, Jan van Galenstraat 40, 3572 LA Utrecht, Nederland.


The sexual behaviour of wild long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) was studied in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. All females showed some swelling of the sexual skin, but the frequency and maximum size of the swelling decreased with age. The frequency of copulations and consortships for a given female increased with increasing degree of swelling or coloration. No regular cycles could be found in the occurrence of swellings, copulations and consortships. Periods for which a female had consortships tended to be long (up to 5–6 weeks on end). These two results suggest that in the wild the predictability of the moment of ovulation is very low. The consortships were not exclusive: both the male and the female occasionally copulated with others. All females had many different male partners and, as ovulation signalling was not clear, none of these males could have any certainty about paternity of a female's offspring. Yet, the highest-ranking males probably had the best chances to father children because they were more often involved in sexual interaction (both copulations and consortships), especially around the estimated date of conception. This does not hold for the nulliparous females who were virtually ignored by the higher-ranking males. Consortships were occasionally actively maintained by the female, for whom a direct advantage of consorting might be an increased safety against conspecifics and predators. One advantage of mating with many different males might be a reduced risk of infanticide.