The Role of Androgen Production on Female Social Status in a Semi Free-Ranging Population of Lemur catta

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Mammalian species develop complex social societies for resource allocation and protection from predators. Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) exhibit a rare social strategy of female dominance, where females have priority over males for food, grooming, and space; some females also have priority over other females. L. catta have a strong matrilineal social core due to male dispersal and rotation. Daughters “inherit” their mother’s social rank, however, it is not known if the matrilineal lines are maintained through learned dominant/aggressive behavior or genetically expressed through hormonal blueprints. We studied the intrasexual relationships between females, and correlated social status with the production of the delta-4-steroid pathway androgen products. Due to the negative correlation between cortisol and androgens, its concentration was also analyzed to investigate a possible effect on dominant/aggressive behaviors. Biological samples (n=300) were taken from a captive population (n=92) of semi free-ranging L. catta on St. Catherines Island, GA during summer 2012. Samples were analyzed for steroid quantification using liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. Social status was determined via behavioral observations (50 hours). We found a significant (p < 0.05) positive correlation between androgen concentration and social rank among the females within a troop. Such a correlation between an individual’s rank and steroid production may suggest a hormonal mechanism for social dominance and lead to the discovery of a proximate mechanism for a rare mammalian social organization.


American Society of Primatologists Annual Meeting (ASP)


San Juan, Puerto Rico