The timing of female maturation in wild mammals is often constrained by ecological variables that relate to food acquisition. However, maturational timing in female mammals can also respond to social variables. Specifically, the arrival of novel males can accelerate maturation while the presence of related males can inhibit it. Despite studies on more than two dozen mammalian taxa in captivity, evidence for male-mediated maturation has not been systematically demonstrated in any wild population. Here, we report the first evidence of male-mediated maturation in a wild primate, the gelada (Theropithecus gelada). After the arrival of a new breeding male in the group (a male takeover), young females were three times more likely to mature. We then examined these takeover-associated maturations in more detail: some were earlier than expected (a presumptive “Vandenbergh effect,” or male-accelerated maturation), some were at the expected age for the average female gelada, and some were later than expected (a presumptive “inbreeding avoidance delay,” or father-induced reproductive suppression). An examination of fecal estrogens, which rise just before visible signs of maturation in this species, revealed that male takeovers induced a surge in estrogens for immature females of all ages—even females that did not mature. These are the first data to demonstrate that specific males are associated with the onset of maturation in a wild primate and to provide a possible mechanism for this change. These results suggest that all male-mediated maturation (whether accelerated, on-time, or delayed) may be governed by similar neuroendocrine processes.
- Vandenbergh effect
- inbreeding avoidance
- male replacement
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)