Relationship between ovarian cycle phase and sexual behavior in female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)

  • O'Neill A
  • Fedigan L
  • Ziegler T
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We conducted behavioral observations simultaneously with fecal sample collection on eight nonlactating females 2-3 times per week, October 1997-March 1998, to examine the relationship between ovarian hormones and the sexual behavior of female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) during the mating season. We analyzed samples by enzyme immunoassay for fecal hormone levels. Hormone profiles of estrone-glucuronide (E1) and pregnanediol-glucuronide (PdG) were used to separate ovarian cycles into three phases (follicular, periovulatory, and luteal). Hormonal profiles indicate average cycle lengths of 27.6 +/- 4.2 days (+/- SD; n = 26). Average lengths of the luteal and follicular phases were 12.3 +/- 3.8 days (+/- SD) and 8.3 +/- 3.4 days (+/- SD), respectively. We observed female Japanese macaques engaging in sexual activity throughout the ovarian cycle, with the highest rates occurring during the follicular and periovulatory phases as compared to the luteal phase. The attractivity of female Japanese macaques increased significantly during the follicular and periovulatory phases of the ovarian cycle, when E1 levels are peaking and PdG levels drop to baseline. In addition, females displayed a significant increase in proceptive behavior during the follicular and periovulatory phases. Grooming bouts, as well as proximity between female and male macaques, also increased significantly during the follicular and periovulatory phases. We conclude that fluctuating levels of ovarian hormones in different phases of the cycle are significantly associated with variable rates of copulatory and pericopulatory behaviors in these Japanese macaque females.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Attractivity
  • Fecal steroids
  • Macaques
  • Ovarian hormones
  • Proceptivity

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  • Ann C. O'Neill

  • Linda M. Fedigan

  • Toni E. Ziegler

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