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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: August 2009

12 - Sexual selection and the careers of primate males: paternity concentration, dominance-acquisition tactics and transfer decisions

Summary

INTRODUCTION

Life-history theory suggests that natural selection has shaped an organism's development so that it optimally positions the young adult for the challenges of reproductive life. Sex differences in development are usually the product of sexual selection (Setchell & Lee, this volume). Thus, in polygamous organisms, sons are generally dependent on their mother for longer and make greater demands on maternal resources, so that adult males tend to be larger and stronger, allowing them to seek out and compete for mates efficiently (Clutton-Brock et al., 1985; Trivers, 1985; Clutton-Brock, 1991). Sexual selection should also have had a profound effect on the behavioural decisions made by males, but studies so far have focused mainly on broad sex differences in migration and risk taking, and thus mortality rates (Clutton-Brock et al. 1985; Trivers, 1985; Clutton-Brock, 1991).

Especially in long-lived organisms such as primates, a male's success in competing for mates and protecting his offspring should be affected by the nature of major social decisions, such as whether and when to transfer to other groups or to challenge dominants. Several studies indicate dependence of male decisions about transfer and acquisition of rank on age and local demography (e.g. Phillips-Conroy et al., 1992; Sprague, 1992; Watts, 2000). Likewise, our work on male long-tailed macaques (scientific names are listed in Table 12.1) indicated a remarkably tight fit between the behavioural decisions of males and expectations based on known determinants of success (van Noordwijk & van Schaik, 2001), suggesting that natural selection has endowed males with decision rules that, on average, produce optimal life-history trajectories (or careers) for a given set of conditions.

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Sexual Selection in Primates
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