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Proc Biol Sci. 1998 Feb 22;265(1393):287-91.

The function of Barbary macaque copulation calls.

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School of Biological Sciences, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, UK.


In a wide variety of animal species, females produce vocalizations specific to mating contexts. It has been proposed that these copulation calls function to incite males to compete for access to the calling female. Two separate advantages of inciting male-male competition in this way have been put forward. The first suggests that as a result of calling, females are only mated by the highest ranking male in the vicinity (indirect mate choice hypothesis). The second proposes that copulation calling results in a female being mated by many males, thus promoting competition at the level of sperm (sperm competition hypothesis). In this paper, I give results from the first experimental study to test these hypotheses. Playback was used to examine the function of copulation calls of female Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) in Gibraltar. Although rank did not affect lone males' likelihood of approaching copulation calls, when playbacks were given to pairs of males only the higher ranking individual approached. Moreover, females were mated significantly sooner after playback of their copulation call than after playback of a control stimulus. These results suggest that the copulation calls of female Barbary macaques play a key role in affecting patterns of male reproductive behaviour, not only providing an indirect mechanism of female choice, but also promoting sperm competition by reducing the interval between copulations. Potential fitness benefits of inciting male-male competition at these two levels are discussed.

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