Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany
phone: ++49 (0)341 3550 264
e-mail: heidi_douglas[>>> Please replace the brackets with an AT sign! <<<]eva.mpg.de
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. In many primate species, female mate choice is often constrained by male mating strategies and female behaviour may be affected by aggression from males. In bonobos (Pan paniscus), aggressive male mating strategies are absent and females are codominant with males, suggesting that female bonobos may be less constrained in their ability to express mate choice compared to other species of nonhuman primates.
The overarching objective of my Ph.D. research is to contribute to the elucidation of the role of females and their mating strategies in the mating system of wild bonobos. By collecting and integrating data on behaviour, sexual morphology, and reproductive physiology, I am investigating female sociosexual behaviour as a function of reproductive state and timing of ovulation in bonobos. In particular, I am examining whether there is evidence of female mate choice in bonobos at Luikotale.
My research is conducted in two contrasting environments: at the Luikotale research site in D.R. Congo, where I collect behavioural data and urine samples from wild, habituated and unprovisioned bonobos, and in the Endocrinology Laboratory at the MPI EVAN in Leipzig, where I extract and assess concentrations of steroid hormones from urine.
This project is funded by the Max Planck Society and the Leakey Foundation, and has received generous donations from Verify Diagnostics and the Quidel Corporation.