The role of sexual displays in mating strategies and their reliability in indicating the time of ovulation has given rise to multiple explanations in nonhuman primates. In order to discriminate among hypotheses, socio‐sexual behaviors were recorded in a semifree ranging group of Tonkean macaques (Macaca tonkeana), together with sexual skin swelling volumes and measurements of urinary concentrations of estrone conjugates and pregnanediol glucuronide. A clear preovulatory peak of urinary estrogen levels occurred 2 days before a defined rise in pregnanediol glucuronide concentrations, indicating that both hormones pointed out the female's ovulatory period. The concept of estrus rightly could be applied to female Tonkean macaques since fluctuations in estrogen levels correlated with cyclic changes in genital swelling sizes and rates of female behavioral attractivity and proceptivity. Males proved to be capable of recognizing the optimal conception period as judged from the occurrence of maximal rates of following behavior, serial matings, and ejaculations during the peri‐ovulatory phase. During this time, males succeeded in maintaining exclusive and enduring associations with females. However, consortships occurred precociously, with males starting to affiliate with females, follow, and mount them 1 week before the presumed time of ovulation. These long‐lasting consortships appear to be a consequence of the female extended follicular phase. This presumably sexually selected character allowed females to extend conspicuous sexual displays: genital swelling and utterance of an estrous call, which might attract males' attention and arouse them. With regard to female mating tactics, the combination of reliably indicating the time of ovulation to the male and durable periods of competitor exclusion led to reject explanations assuming manipulation about paternity or long‐lasting intermale competition incitement in Tonkean macaques. Competition for mates between females also turned out to be an irrelevant factor as it was very low in the species. We conclude that the main function of sexual displays is to herald the approach of ovulation toward available mates. Am. J. Primatol. 46:285–309, 1998. © 1998 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.
American Journal of Primatology – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 1998
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