Bonobo mothers have elevated urinary cortisol levels during early but not mid or late lactation

Ruth-Sophie Sonnweber, Niina O Nurmi, Oliver Schülke, Liza Moscovice, Tobias Deschner, Gottfried Hohmann

In mammals, the costs of reproduction are biased towards females. Lactation is particularly energetically expensive, and behavioral and physiological data indicate that maternal effort during lactation induces energetic stress. Another source of stress in females is male aggression directed towards them when they are cycling. Evaluating the costs of reproduction in wild and mobile animals can be a challenging task, and requires detailed information on state-dependent parameters such as hormone levels. Glucocorticoid (GC) levels are indicative of nutritional and social stress, and are widely used to assess the costs of reproduction. We investigated variation in urinary levels of cortisol, the main GC in female bonobos (Pan paniscus), between and within reproductive stages. Female chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), the closest living relative of the bonobos, are often exposed to intense aggression from males, which causes a significant rise in their cortisol levels during the phase of their maximum fecundity. In bonobos, males compete for access to fertile females, but aggressive male mating strategies are absent in this species. Therefore, we expected that GC levels of cycling female bonobos would be lower than those of lactating females. Due to the long period of offspring care in bonobos, we expected that GC levels would remain elevated into the late stage of lactation, when immatures gain body weight but may still be nursed and carried by their mothers. We found elevated urinary GC levels only during the early stage of lactation. The GC levels of cycling females did not differ from those in the mid or late lactation stage. Behavioral strategies of female bonobos may allow them to compensate for the elevated energetic demands of lactation and prolonged maternal care.

Department für Verhaltens- und Kognitionsbiologie
Externe Organisation(en)
Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Forschungsinstitut für die Biologie landwirtschaftlicher Nutztiere (FBN), Max-Planck-Institut für evolutionäre Anthropologie, Leibnitz Institut für Primatenforschung
Anzahl der Seiten
ÖFOS 2012
106056 Biologische Anthropologie, 106054 Zoologie, 106048 Tierphysiologie, 106038 Reproduktionsbiologie
ASJC Scopus Sachgebiete
Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
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