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Physical, behavioral, and hormonal changes in the resumption of sexual receptivity during postpartum infertility in female bonobos at Wamba

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

The operational sex ratio (OSR) is used as a predictor for the intensity of mating competition. While many factors affect the OSR, there tends to be a high male bias in primate species with long interbirth intervals and non-seasonal breeding, such as hominid apes. However, the OSR of bonobos (Pan paniscus) is lower than that of chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), which is thought to reduce competitive and aggressive male behaviors. The low OSR of bonobos is considered to result from the early resumption of female sexual receptivity during postpartum infertility and the receptivity that they continue to show until the late stage of pregnancy. In this study, we aimed to examine the early resumption of sexual receptivity by providing quantitative data on the resumption of maximal swelling (MS) in sexual skin and copulation, and changes in urinary estrone conjugate (E1C) concentrations during postpartum infertility in wild bonobos at Wamba in the Luo Scientific Reserve, Democratic Republic of the Congo. An analysis of 9 years of data revealed that females showed the first MS at 225.4 ± 132.7 days after parturition and performed the first copulation at 186.8 ± 137.5 days after parturition, both of which were in the early stage of postpartum infertility. The proportion of days with MS and the frequency of copulation steadily increased subsequently; however, the rate of increase gradually slowed approximately 42–48 months after parturition. There was a significant correlation between the proportion of days with MS and the frequency of copulation in each period for each female. We confirmed that E1C concentrations were significantly higher during the MS phase than during the non-MS phase. Data collected over 15 months on the E1C concentration during MS showed that it increased linearly from the early stage of lactation to the next conception. These results suggest that, although female bonobos do not usually conceive until 49.7 months after parturition, they resume MS and receptivity at a low level of E1C concentration during an early stage of postpartum infertility. This study of female bonobo receptivity and sex hormone changes during the postpartum non-fertile period provides important insights for examining the evolution of low OSR, which has been considered to contribute to peaceful social relationships among bonobos. © 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Japan Monkey Centre.
Journal: Primates
ISSN: 0032-8332
Issue: 2
Volume: 63
Pages: 109-121
Publication year:2022