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Int J Primatol. 2009 Dec;30(6):859-875. Epub 2009 Oct 2.

Individual Facial Coloration in Male Eulemur fulvus rufus: A Condition-dependent Ornament?

Abstract

Researchers studying individual variation in conspicuous skin coloration in primates have suggested that color indicates male quality. Although primate fur color can also be flamboyant, the potential condition dependence and thus signaling function of fur remains poorly studied. We studied sources of variation in sexually dichromatic facial hair coloration in red-fronted lemurs (Eulemur fulvus rufus). We collected data on 13 adult males in Kirindy Forest, Madagascar, during two study periods in 2006 and 2007, to determine whether variation in facial hair coloration correlates with male age, rank, androgen status, and reproductive success. We quantified facial hair coloration via standardized digital photographs of each male, assessed androgen status using fecal hormone measurements, and obtained data on reproductive success through genetic paternity analyses. Male facial hair coloration showed high individual variation, and baseline coloration was related to individual androgen status but not to any other parameter tested. Color did not reflect rapid androgen changes during the mating season. However, pronounced long-term changes in androgen levels between years were accompanied by changes in facial hair coloration. Our data suggest that facial hair coloration in red-fronted lemur males is under proximate control of androgens and may provide some information about male quality, but it does not correlate with dominance rank or male reproductive success.

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