This contribution explores reproductive maturation from both evolutionary and physiological perspectives, in order to describe and evaluate the forces that affect the timing of puberty and first birth in cercopithecine monkeys. Evidence from both field and laboratory studies is used. Although approximately 40 cercopithecine species are recognized (see Smuts et al., 1987, appendix 1), most of these data are derived from fewer than a dozen species. They are applied to three related themes: the effect of weight or fatness on reproductive maturation; the influence of dominance status on reproductive development; and the role of sex differences in reproductive strategies on the pace of reproductive maturation.
Perspectives on reproductive maturation
Behavioral ecology and reproductive maturation
While nutritional status and reproductive success are undoubtedly closely linked, the relationship between them is not simple. Malnutrition suppresses reproduction, but the compensatory effects of supplementary feeding have been exaggerated (Loy, 1988). As Darwin (1859: 33) astutely observed, “on the one hand, we see domesticated animals and plants, though often weak and sickly, breeding freely under confinement; and … on the other hand, we see individuals, though taken young from a state of nature perfectly tamed, long-lived and healthy … having their reproductive system … fail to act.” Ecological, nutritional, social, and demographic factors mold the timing of reproductive development and onset of reproduction.