Department of Primatology
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299
Female mate choice and mating strategies in wild bonobos
by Pamela Heidi Douglas
The main objective of this study is to elucidate the role of females in the mating system of wild bonobos. Long-standing questions pertaining to female sexuality are being addressed in the free-ranging community of bonobos at Luikotale, using an integrated approach combining information on behaviour, sexual morphology, and reproductive physiology. Female mate choice is an important evolutionary process that imposes sexual selection on males, yet for nearly a century after it was proposed in Darwin’s seminal work (1871); females were considered to be less sexually strategic than males. Only in recent decades have female mate choice and mating strategies received considerable theoretical and empirical attention, and evidence that females actively pursue their own mating and reproductive strategies is continually increasing.
To address this question, I am conducting focal observations and collecting non-invasive hormone samples of female bonobos to obtain data on mating behaviour and reproductive endocrinology. More specifically, I will relate female mating behaviour to reproductive state and conception likelihood by considering visual signs of oestrus and timing of ovulation as assessed by urinary concentrations of sex steroids.
The data collected in this study are expected to answer the following questions:
- What mating strategies do female bonobos employ?
- How does female reproductive state influence female mating strategies and choice of mating partners?
- Is there evidence of female mate choice in bonobos, and if so, what is the function of female choice within the mating system of wild bonobos?