Sexual Signalling in Propithecus verreauxi: Male ''Chest Badge'' and Female Mate Choice

Communication, an essential prerequisite for sociality, involves the transmission of signals. A signal can be defined as any action or trait produced by one animal, the sender, that produces a change in the behaviour of another animal, the receiver. Secondary sexual signals are often used for mate choice because they may inform on a potential partner's quality. Verreaux's sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) is characterized by the presence of two different morphs of males (bimorphism), which can show either a stained or clean chest. The chest becomes stained by secretions of the sternal gland during throat marking (rubbing throat and chest on a vertical substrate while smearing the scent deposition). The role of the chest staining in guiding female mate choice was previously hypothesized but never demonstrated probably due to the difficulty of observing sifaka copulations in the wild. Here we report that stained-chested males had a higher throat marking activity than clean-chested males during the mating season, but not during the birth season. We found that females copulated more frequently with stained-chested males than the clean-chested males. Finally, in agreement with the biological market theory, we found that clean-chested males, with a lower scent-releasing potential, offered more grooming to females. This ''grooming for sex'' tactic was not completely unsuccessful; in fact, half of the clean-chested males copulated with females, even though at low frequency. In conclusion, the chest stain, possibly correlated with different cues targeted by females, could be one of the parameters which help females in selecting mates.

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Palagi, Elisabetta
Antonacci, D.
Norscia, I.
Dall'Olio, S.
Public Library of Science, San Francisco, CA , Stati Uniti d'America
PloS one 7 (2012). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037332
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Palagi, Elisabetta; Antonacci, D.; Norscia, I.; Dall'Olio, S./titolo:Sexual Signalling in Propithecus verreauxi: Male ''Chest Badge'' and Female Mate Choice/doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0037332/rivista:PloS one/anno:2012/pagina_da:/
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