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Age-related changes in urinary testosterone levels suggest differences in puberty onset and divergent life history strategies in bonobos and chimpanzees

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Research on age-related changes in morphology, social behavior, and cognition suggests that the development of bonobos (Pan paniscus) is delayed in comparison to chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). However, there is also evidence for earlier reproductive maturation in bonobos. Since developmental changes such as reproductive maturation are induced by a number of endocrine processes, changes in hormone levels are indicators of different developmental stages. Age-related changes in testosterone excretion are an indirect marker for the onset of puberty in human and non-human primates. In this study we investigated patterns of urinary testosterone levels in male and female bonobos and chimpanzees to determine the onset of puberty. In contrast to other studies, we found that both species experience age-related changes in urinary testosterone levels. Older individuals of both sexes had significantly higher urinary testosterone levels than younger individuals, indicating that bonobos and chimpanzees experience juvenile pause. The males of both species showed a similar pattern of age-related changes in urinary testosterone levels, with a sharp increase in levels around the age of eight years. This suggests that species-differences in aggression and male mate competition evolved independently of developmental changes in testosterone levels. Females showed a similar pattern of age-related urinary testosterone increase. However, in female bonobos the onset was about three years earlier than in chimpanzees. The earlier rise of urinary testosterone levels in female bonobos is in line with reports of their younger age of dispersal, and suggests that female bonobos experience puberty at a younger age than female chimpanzees.
Journal: Hormones and Behavior
ISSN: 0018-506X
Issue: 3
Volume: 66
Pages: 525–533
Publication year:2014