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Endocrinological correlates of male bimaturism in wild Bornean orangutans


Marty, Pascal R; van Noordwijk, Maria A; Heistermann, Michael; Willems, Erik P; Dunkel, Lynda P; Cadilek, Manuela; Agil, Muhammad; Weingrill, Tony (2015). Endocrinological correlates of male bimaturism in wild Bornean orangutans. American Journal of Primatology, 77(11):1170-1178.

Abstract

Among primates, orangutans are unique in having pronounced male bimaturism leading to two fully adult morphs that differ in both physical appearance and behavior. While unflanged males have a female-like appearance, flanged males have the full suite of secondary sexual characteristics, including cheek flanges and a large throat sac. So far, hormonal correlates of arrested development in unflanged males and the expression of secondary sexual characteristics in flanged males have only been studied in zoo-housed individuals. In this study, we investigated fecal androgen and glucocorticoid metabolites as hormonal correlates of male bimaturism in 17 wild adult Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. We predicted and found higher androgen levels in flanged males compared to unflanged males, probably due to ongoing strong competition among flanged males who meet too infrequently to establish a clear linear dominance hierarchy. Furthermore, we found no difference in fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations between flanged and unflanged males, indicating that social stress is unlikely to explain arrested development in unflanged wild orangutans. The only actively developing male in our study showed significantly higher androgen levels during the period of development than later as a fully flanged male. This supports earlier findings from zoo studies that elevated androgen levels are associated with the development of secondary sexual characteristics.

Abstract

Among primates, orangutans are unique in having pronounced male bimaturism leading to two fully adult morphs that differ in both physical appearance and behavior. While unflanged males have a female-like appearance, flanged males have the full suite of secondary sexual characteristics, including cheek flanges and a large throat sac. So far, hormonal correlates of arrested development in unflanged males and the expression of secondary sexual characteristics in flanged males have only been studied in zoo-housed individuals. In this study, we investigated fecal androgen and glucocorticoid metabolites as hormonal correlates of male bimaturism in 17 wild adult Bornean orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. We predicted and found higher androgen levels in flanged males compared to unflanged males, probably due to ongoing strong competition among flanged males who meet too infrequently to establish a clear linear dominance hierarchy. Furthermore, we found no difference in fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations between flanged and unflanged males, indicating that social stress is unlikely to explain arrested development in unflanged wild orangutans. The only actively developing male in our study showed significantly higher androgen levels during the period of development than later as a fully flanged male. This supports earlier findings from zoo studies that elevated androgen levels are associated with the development of secondary sexual characteristics.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2015
Deposited On:23 Dec 2015 11:26
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 19:46
Publisher:Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, Inc.
ISSN:0275-2565
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1002/ajp.22453

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