Male Competition, Mating Success and Female Choice in a Seasonally Breeding Primate (Erythrocebus patas)


Dept of Biology, Winthrop University, Rock Hill, South Carolina 29733, USA.


Mammals with restricted breeding seasons often show brief but intense bouts of male competition for mates and male reproductive success has been attributed to male competitive abilities, with the most aggressively successful males able to control access to fertile females, or with females choosing to mate with such males. We studied male competition, mating behaviour and female mate selection in patas monkeys, a primate with a restricted breeding period. We observed two habituated patas groups in Laikipia District, Kenya, during Jun.-Aug. 1983. During the study, one group had a single resident male while the other group had multiple adult males. Within the multimale group, experienced adult males were no more successful than the subadult male. The sole resident male had a significantly higher rate of fights won (p < 0.02) although he did not differ from the multimale group males in rate of aggression or initiation of fights. We found no significant differences in either mating success or female preference based on males' experience or residency. The rates at which males copulated with and were solicited by females were not significantly correlated. We found no evidence of stable dominance ranks among males in the multimale group and aggressive success was not significantly correlated with copulation rate for males in the multimale group. Subadult males were responsible for the majority of copulations observed during the final third of the breeding season. Our observations of this patas population showed a fluid number of males in groups, with the same groups able to shift rapidly from single to multimale structure. This fluidity may result from the large fluctuations in numbers of breeding-age males and females observed over 4 yr of studying this population.