Age-independent increases in male salivary testosterone during horticultural activity among Tsimane forager-farmers

Benjamin C. Trumble, Daniel K. Cummings, Kathleen A. O'Connor, Darryl J. Holman, Eric A. Smith, Hillard S. Kaplan, Michael D. Gurven

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Scopus citations

Abstract

Testosterone plays an important role in mediating male reproductive trade-offs in many vertebrate species, augmenting muscle and influencing behavior necessary for male-male competition and mating-effort. Among humans, testosterone may also play a key role in facilitating male provisioning of offspring as muscular and neuromuscular performance is deeply influenced by acute changes in testosterone. This study examines acute changes in salivary testosterone among 63 Tsimane men ranging in age from 16 to 80 (mean 38.2) years during one-hour bouts of tree-chopping while clearing horticultural plots. The Tsimane forager-horticulturalists living in the Bolivian Amazon experience high energy expenditure associated with food production, have high levels of parasites and pathogens, and display significantly lower baseline salivary testosterone than age-matched US males. Mixed-effects models controlling for BMI and time of specimen collection reveal increased salivary testosterone (p<. 0.001) equivalent to a 48.6% rise, after one hour of tree chopping. Age had no effect on baseline (p=0.656) or change in testosterone (p=0.530); self-reported illness did not modify testosterone change (p=0.488). A comparison of these results to the relative change in testosterone during a competitive soccer tournament in the same population reveals larger relative changes in testosterone following resource production (tree chopping), compared to competition (soccer). These findings highlight the importance of moving beyond a unidimensional focus on changes in testosterone and male-male aggression to investigate the importance of testosterone-behavior interactions across additional male fitness-related activities. Acutely increased testosterone during muscularly intensive horticultural food production may facilitate male productivity and provisioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-357
Number of pages8
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Volume34
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2013

Keywords

  • Challenge hypothesis
  • Competition
  • Physical activity
  • Resource production
  • Testosterone
  • Tsimane

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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