The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Intersexual proximity and female dominance in Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithicus verreauxi)


Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin

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Previous research on intrasexual relationships has shown that individuals tend to be in proximity with individuals of a similar rank and that dominant individuals are less likely to initiate proximity bouts with subordinates. The goal of our study was to examine whether this pattern holds true for intersexual relationships in a female dominant species. Verreaux’s sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) are female dominant lemurs with male-biased dispersal. We predicted that sexually-mature and unrelated individuals engage in intrasexual proximity at higher rates than intersexual proximity and for greater proportions of time. In addition, females are predicted to initiate intersexual proximity at lower rates than males initiate intersexual proximity. Proximity data were collected on 14 Verreaux’s sifaka in the Kirindy Mitea National Park of western Madagascar using focal animal sampling from June 2007 to December 2010 for approximately 1,400 observation hours. As predicted, males initiated proximity with females significantly more often (0.41 +/- 0.37 bouts/hr) than females initiated proximity with males (0.23 +/- 0.13 bouts/hr). Females also initiated intersexual proximity at significantly lower rates than males. These results suggest the importance of intersexual affiliative relationships with dominant females to males regardless of males’ subordinate status and indicate that dominant individuals initiate affiliative relationships with subordinate individuals at lower rates regardless of sex.

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