Plasma Testosterone and Androstenedione Levels Follow the Same Sex-Specific Patterns in the Two Pan Species

Ruth Sonnweber, Jeroen M. G. Stevens, Gottfried Hohmann, Tobias Deschner, Verena Behringer

In most animals, males are considered more aggressive, in terms of frequency and intensity of aggressive behaviors, than their female peers. However, in several species this widespread male-biased aggression pattern is either extenuated, absent, or even sex-reversed. Studies investigating potential neuro-physiological mechanisms driving the selection for female aggression in these species have revealed an important, but not exclusive role of androgens in the expression of the observed sex-specific behavioral patterns. Two very closely related mammalian species that markedly differ in the expression and degree of sex-specific aggression are the two Pan species, where the chimpanzee societies are male-dominated while in bonobos sex-biased aggression patterns are alleviated. Using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC-MS) methods, we measured levels of plasma testosterone and androstenedione levels in male and female zoo-housed bonobos (N = 21; 12 females, 9 males) and chimpanzees (N = 41; 27 females, 14 males). Our results show comparable absolute and relative intersexual patterns of blood androgen levels in both species of Pan. Plasma testosterone levels were higher in males (bonobos: females: average 0.53 ± 0.30 ng/mL; males 6.70 ± 2.93 ng/mL; chimpanzees: females: average 0.40 ± 0.23 ng/mL; males 5.84 ± 3.63 ng/mL) and plasma androstenedione levels were higher in females of either species (bonobos: females: average 1.83 ± 0.87 ng/mL; males 1.13 ± 0.44 ng/mL; chimpanzees: females: average 1.84 ± 0.92 ng/mL; males 1.22 ± 0.55 ng/mL). The latter result speaks against a role of androstenedione in the mediation of heightened female aggression, as had been suggested based on studies in other mammal species where females are dominant and show high levels of female aggressiveness.

Department für Verhaltens- und Kognitionsbiologie
Externe Organisation(en)
University of Antwerp, Max-Planck-Institut für Plasmaphysik, Universität Osnabrück, Leibnitz Institut für Primatenforschung
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
106012 Evolutionsforschung, 106048 Tierphysiologie, 106051 Verhaltensbiologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all), Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all), Immunology and Microbiology(all)
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