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Title: Group structure predicts variation in proximity relationships between male–female and male–infant pairs of mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei)
Award ID(s):
1122321 1552185
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
17 to 28
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. The Challenge Hypothesis is an influential framework for understanding how androgens are involved in the promotion of competitive behavior during mating-related challenges and has been tested extensively in studies across scientific disciplines. Mixed support in psychological research led scholars to develop the Dual Hormone Hypothesis as a potential path forward, which argues that glucocorticoids moderate the relationship between androgens and status-striving. In the current study, we examine the Challenge Hypothesis and the Dual Hormone Hypothesis in wild male mountain gorillas, representing the first time the latter hypothesis has been tested in a non-human primate. In a sample of 30 adult males comprising over 600 days of observation, we find some limited support for the Challenge Hypothesis. Greater daily rates of targeted aggression toward other adult males corresponded to higher fecal androgen metabolites 1–2 days following observations, though this pattern did not fully generalize to dominance rank or other competitive behaviors examined. However, we find no support for the Dual Hormone Hypothesis: neither dominance rank nor any category of competitive behavior was predicted by the interaction between androgens and glucocorticoids. We close by discussing how this initial investigation might be leveraged toward the development of an expanded Dual Hormone Hypothesis that draws on the large evidence base in primate behavioral ecology. 
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  2. Cameron, Elissa Z. (Ed.)
  3. Abstract

    Androgens are important mediators of male‐male competition in many primate species. Male gorillas' morphology is consistent with a reproductive strategy that relies heavily on androgen‐dependent traits (e.g., extreme size and muscle mass). Despite possessing characteristics typical of species with an exclusively single‐male group structure, multimale groups with strong dominance hierarchies are common in mountain gorillas. Theory predicts that androgens should mediate their dominance hierarchies, and potentially vary with the type of group males live in. We validated the use of a testosterone enzyme immunoassay (T‐EIA R156/7, CJ Munro, UC‐Davis) for use with mountain gorilla fecal material by (1) examining individual‐level androgen responses to competitive events, and (2) isolating assay‐specific hormone metabolites via high‐performance liquid chromatography. Males had large (2.6‐ and 6.5‐fold), temporary increases in fecal androgen metabolite (FAM) after competitive events, and most captured metabolites were testosterone or 5α‐dihydrotestosterone‐like androgens. We then examined the relationship between males' dominance ranks, group type, and FAM concentrations. Males in single‐male groups had higher FAM concentrations than males in multimale groups, and a small pool of samples from solitary males suggested they may have lower FAM than group‐living peers. However, data from two different time periods (n = 1610 samples) indicated there was no clear relationship between rank and FAM concentrations, confirming results from the larger of two prior studies that measured urinary androgens. These findings highlight the need for additional research to clarify the surprising lack of a dominance hierarchy/androgen relationship in mountain gorillas.

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