The menstrual cycle and its effect on behaviour in the Talapoin monkey (Miopithecus talapoin)

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Abstract

The menstrual cycles of 14 captive Talapoin monkeys (Miopithecus talapoin) were studied by making serial observations on the vaginal smears and sexual skin swellings for up to 15 months. Twelve of these females menstruated and the mean duration of their cycle was32–9 days (95% confidence limits 28.0-37.7). The corresponding value for the seven most regular females was 33.0 days (29.1-36.8). There were rhythmic changes in the vaginal smears and sexual skin during the menstrual cycle. Maximum cornification of the smears and maximum sexual skin swelling were observed at midcycle; the sexual skin deflated and the smear became less cornified during the luteal phase. The follicular phase—i.e. from menstruation to maximum skin swelling lasted 20.4 days with a wide distribution, in contrast to the mean duration of the luteal phase (13.7 days) which showed a pronounced peak at 14 days. The menstrual cycle of the talapoin thus resembles those of certain other Old World monkeys that exhibit perineal sexual skin swelling.

Sexual behaviour of the male and female was maximal near the female's midcycle and minimal during the luteal phase, with intermediate values in the follicular phase. The males were most aggressive towards other females of the group when one female was at midcycle; there were no consistent changes in aggression between the male and the female herself. The number of times one animal looks at another (a characteristic behaviour pattern in talapoins) was measured and occurred most often at midcycle, but other preliminary observations indicated a more pronounced correlation between this behaviour pattern and an animal's position in the hierarchy.

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