Do females pay attention to secondary sexual coloration in vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops)?

Melissa S. Gerald, James Ayala, Angelina Ruíz-lambides, Corri Waitt, Alexander Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Several primate species show sexual dichromatism with males displaying conspicuous coloration of the pelage or skin. Studies of scrotal coloration in male vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) suggest that it is an important intrasexual signal, with relatively dark, colourful males dominating paler males. To date, no studies have examined the influence of male colour on intersexual social interactions in vervet monkeys. The primary goal of the present study was to evaluate whether female vervet monkeys attend to male coloration. We experimentally introduced females, housed with either "pale" or "dark" males, to stimulus males whose scrota were pale, dark, or pale but painted to look dark. Overall, during introductions, females did not differ in time spent directing affiliative behaviour toward pale, dark, and painted males; however, females, permanently housed with dark males, spent significantly more time directing affiliative behaviour toward pale than painted males. When the stimulus male was pale, affiliative exchanges between males and females were longer than when the stimulus male was painted. Home male colour was not related to female-initiated aggression. Home male colour was also not related to male-initiated aggression, although painted stimulus males were more likely to initiate aggression than pale stimulus males. These findings lead us to conclude that females pay attention to male coloration, but do not bias their interactions toward males solely on the basis of natural male coloration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-96
Number of pages8
JournalThe Science of Nature
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


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