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Countermarking by Male Pygmy Lorises (Nycticebus pygmaeus): Do Females Use Odor Cues to Select Mates with High Competitive Ability?

Heidi S. Fisher, R. R. Swaisgood and H. Fitch-Snyder
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Vol. 53, No. 2 (Jan., 2003), pp. 123-130
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4602191
Page Count: 8
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Countermarking by Male Pygmy Lorises (Nycticebus pygmaeus): Do Females Use Odor Cues to Select Mates with High Competitive Ability?
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Abstract

Competitive countermarking occurs when animals compete to ensure that their scent marks are in the top-most position and more recently deposited than those of rivals. Because it takes a great deal of time and energy, and perhaps dominant or territorial status, to patrol the area and rapidly countermark rivals' marks, assessors may use the presence of countermarks as a reliable cue of the signaler's competitive ability. Selection on assessors, therefore, should favor the evolution of mechanisms to determine which scent is the countermark. Sexual selection theory predicts that females select highquality males with whom to mate; therefore, females should mate preferentially with countermarking males. We examined the role of countermarking in intra-male competition and female mate choice in the pygmy loris. In experiment 1, we found that males deposit significantly more urine when countermarking other males' urine, but countermark female urine no more than control stimuli. In experiment 2, we exposed females to the urine of two males for several weeks. One male always deposited his urine first, whereas the second male always deposited his urine later and on top of the first male's urine. When reaching peak estrus, females were given a simultaneous choice test between the two males, and showed a significant preference for the countermarking male with regard to: (1) her location and orientation to the male, (2) her chemosensory interest in the male and his cage, and (3) her affiliative socio-sexual behaviors. These results are consistent with predictions from the competitive countermarking hypothesis, and demonstrate that chemosignals play a profound role in governing female reproductive behavior in the species.

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