Urinary C-peptide levels in male bonobos (Pan paniscus) are related to party size and rank but not to mate competition


Martin Surbeck, Tobias Deschner, Verena Behringer, and Gottfried Hohmann. 2015. “Urinary C-peptide levels in male bonobos (Pan paniscus) are related to party size and rank but not to mate competition.” Hormones and Behavior, 71, Pp. 22 - 30.


Within- and between-species variation in male mating strategies has been attributed to a multitude of factors including male competitive ability and the distribution of fertile females across space and time. Differences in energy balance across and within males allow for the identification of some of the trade-offs associated with certain social and mating strategies. Bonobos live in groups with a high degree of fission–fusion dynamics, there is co-dominance between the sexes and a linear dominance hierarchy among males. Males compete over access to females, breeding is aseasonal, and females exhibit sexual swellings over extended time periods. In this study we use urinary C-peptide (UCP) levels in male bonobos (Pan paniscus) obtained from 260 urine samples from a wild bonobo community, to quantify male energy balance during mate competition and levels of gregariousness in the species. Although high ranking males are more aggressive, spend more time in proximity to maximally tumescent females, and have higher mating frequencies, we found no indication that mate guarding or mate competition affected male energy balance. Our results showed a positive correlation between monthly mean UCP levels and mean party size. When traveling in large parties, high ranking males had higher UCP levels than those of the low ranking males. These results support the hypothesis that patterns of fission–fusion dynamics in bonobos are either linked to energy availability in the environment or to the energetic costs of foraging. The finding of a rank-bias in UCP levels in larger parties could also reflect an increase in contest competition among males over access to food.