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5 - Sexual selection and exaggerated sexual swellings of female primates

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 August 2009

Dietmar P. Zinner
Affiliation:
Department of Behaviour and Ecology, German Primate Centre, Göttingen, Germany
Charles L. Nunn
Affiliation:
Department of Biology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
Carel P. van Schaik
Affiliation:
Department of Biological Anthropology and Anatomy, Duke University, Durham, NC, USA
Peter M. Kappeler
Affiliation:
Department of Behaviour and Ecology, German Primate Centre, Göttingen, Germany
Peter M. Kappeler
Affiliation:
Deutsches Primatenzentrum, Göttingen, Germany
Carel P. van Schaik
Affiliation:
Duke University, North Carolina
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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Females of several species of Old World monkeys and apes exhibit enlarged perineal swellings that include the skin of the anogenital region and rump (see Fig. 5.1). Swellings are normally produced by adult females undergoing ovarian activity and they have stimulated evolutionary biologists since Darwin (1876) to think about their adaptive value and the evolutionary mechanisms responsible for their origin and maintenance. Given the association between sexual swellings and mating activity, it seems likely that some aspect of sexual selection is responsible for the evolution of this exaggerated trait. However, even today the functional significance of exaggerated swellings, as well as the processes responsible for their evolution, remain controversial (Dixson, 1983, 1998; Pagel, 1994, 1995; Radwan, 1995; Wiley & Poston, 1996; Nunn, 1999a; Stallmann & Froehlich, 2000; Domb & Pagel, 2001; Nunn et al., 2001; Domb & Pagel, 2002; Zinner et al., 2002; Snowdon, this volume).

In this chapter, we explore the role of sexual selection in the evolution of exaggerated sexual swellings. Because sexual swellings are associated with mating behaviour and competition among males for access to females, sexual selection has figured prominently among hypotheses for this exaggerated trait. Hypotheses have incorporated the two primary components of sexual selection, sometimes within the same explanation. For example, the best-male hypothesis (Clutton-Brock & Harvey, 1976) states that swellings stimulate male–male competition, improving the ability of females to identify and mate with the highest-quality males.

In recent years, our understanding of the theoretical basis for sexual selection has increased.

Type
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Sexual Selection in Primates
New and Comparative Perspectives
, pp. 71 - 89
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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