The Foraging Costs of Mating Effort in Male Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii)

Research paper by A. V. Georgiev, A. F. Russell, M. Emery Thompson, E. Otali, M. N. Muller, R. W. Wrangham

Indexed on: 31 Jul '14Published on: 31 Jul '14Published in: International journal of primatology


Costs of mating effort can affect the reproductive strategies and lifetime fitness of male primates, but interspecific and interindividual variation in the magnitude and distribution of costs is poorly understood. Male costs have primarily been recognized in seasonally breeding species that experience concentrated periods of mating competition. Here, we examine foraging costs associated with male mating effort in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii), a polygynandrous species, in which mating opportunities occur intermittently throughout the year. To quantify male feeding, aggression, and mating, we conducted focal follows on 12 males in a wild community (Kanyawara, Kibale National Park, Uganda) for 11 mo. Males fed less on days when high-value mating opportunities (estrous parous females) were available than on days without any mating opportunities. Reductions in feeding time were related to increased rates of aggression and copulation, indicating that the proximate cause of changes in male foraging was mating effort. Surprisingly, however, there was no relationship between dominance rank and the extent to which feeding time was reduced. High costs of mating effort may reduce the degree of reproductive skew and limit the use of possessive tactics in chimpanzees. We suggest that male bonding in chimpanzees may be favored not only for its benefits but because intragroup competition is so costly. Our results complement the available data on mammals, and primates in particular, by showing that mating effort can have measurable foraging costs even in species, in which breeding is aseasonal and only moderately skewed.