Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color

James Higham, Ann M. MacLarnon, Caroline Ross, Michael Heistermann, Stuart Semple

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Primate sexual swellings are hormone-dependent sexual signals that play a key role in determining patterns of behavior. They are among the most conspicuous signals exhibited by any mammal, and their large size and bright coloration have fascinated evolutionary biologists for well over a century. A number of different adaptive hypotheses have been proposed for the evolution of sexual swellings, and there have been several recent attempts to test some of these using precise swelling measurements made in the field. Most of these studies have focused only on the size element of the swelling, and those that have measured other aspects of swellings, such as color, have done so only crudely. A focus solely on swelling size is inconsistent with most theoretical models of mate choice, which emphasize the importance of multiple cues within sexual signals. Here, we present data on baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) sexual swellings, including measures of both swelling size and color, measured objectively using digital photography at Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria. We combined these measurements with detailed data on fecal progestogen and estrogen levels, and estimates of the timing of ovulation and the fertile period around ovulation based on those levels. We show that swelling color and size vary independently, and that, consistent with results in other species, swelling size contains information about the timing of ovulation and the fertile period. However, we show that swelling color does not contain such information. In addition, swelling size contains information about female parity, and we found some evidence to suggest that color may also contain such information. These results indicate that baboon sexual swellings may contain information about multiple aspects of female fertility. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding the nature of swellings as behavioral signals, and the role of swellings in mate choice.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)452-462
    Number of pages11
    JournalHormones and Behavior
    Volume53
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 2008

    Fingerprint

    Papio
    Color
    Fertile Period
    Ovulation
    Papio hamadryas
    Papio anubis
    Photography
    Progestins
    Nigeria
    Parity
    Primates
    Cues
    Fertility
    Mammals
    Estrogens
    Theoretical Models
    Hormones

    Keywords

    • Coloration
    • Primate
    • Sexual selection
    • Signaling

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Endocrinology
    • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
    • Behavioral Neuroscience

    Cite this

    Higham, J., MacLarnon, A. M., Ross, C., Heistermann, M., & Semple, S. (2008). Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color. Hormones and Behavior, 53(3), 452-462. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019

    Baboon sexual swellings : Information content of size and color. / Higham, James; MacLarnon, Ann M.; Ross, Caroline; Heistermann, Michael; Semple, Stuart.

    In: Hormones and Behavior, Vol. 53, No. 3, 03.2008, p. 452-462.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Higham, J, MacLarnon, AM, Ross, C, Heistermann, M & Semple, S 2008, 'Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color', Hormones and Behavior, vol. 53, no. 3, pp. 452-462. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019
    Higham J, MacLarnon AM, Ross C, Heistermann M, Semple S. Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color. Hormones and Behavior. 2008 Mar;53(3):452-462. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019
    Higham, James ; MacLarnon, Ann M. ; Ross, Caroline ; Heistermann, Michael ; Semple, Stuart. / Baboon sexual swellings : Information content of size and color. In: Hormones and Behavior. 2008 ; Vol. 53, No. 3. pp. 452-462.
    @article{a35beb8b081c433d89de6ea86af0f304,
    title = "Baboon sexual swellings: Information content of size and color",
    abstract = "Primate sexual swellings are hormone-dependent sexual signals that play a key role in determining patterns of behavior. They are among the most conspicuous signals exhibited by any mammal, and their large size and bright coloration have fascinated evolutionary biologists for well over a century. A number of different adaptive hypotheses have been proposed for the evolution of sexual swellings, and there have been several recent attempts to test some of these using precise swelling measurements made in the field. Most of these studies have focused only on the size element of the swelling, and those that have measured other aspects of swellings, such as color, have done so only crudely. A focus solely on swelling size is inconsistent with most theoretical models of mate choice, which emphasize the importance of multiple cues within sexual signals. Here, we present data on baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) sexual swellings, including measures of both swelling size and color, measured objectively using digital photography at Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria. We combined these measurements with detailed data on fecal progestogen and estrogen levels, and estimates of the timing of ovulation and the fertile period around ovulation based on those levels. We show that swelling color and size vary independently, and that, consistent with results in other species, swelling size contains information about the timing of ovulation and the fertile period. However, we show that swelling color does not contain such information. In addition, swelling size contains information about female parity, and we found some evidence to suggest that color may also contain such information. These results indicate that baboon sexual swellings may contain information about multiple aspects of female fertility. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding the nature of swellings as behavioral signals, and the role of swellings in mate choice.",
    keywords = "Coloration, Primate, Sexual selection, Signaling",
    author = "James Higham and MacLarnon, {Ann M.} and Caroline Ross and Michael Heistermann and Stuart Semple",
    year = "2008",
    month = "3",
    doi = "10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019",
    language = "English (US)",
    volume = "53",
    pages = "452--462",
    journal = "Hormones and Behavior",
    issn = "0018-506X",
    publisher = "Academic Press Inc.",
    number = "3",

    }

    TY - JOUR

    T1 - Baboon sexual swellings

    T2 - Information content of size and color

    AU - Higham, James

    AU - MacLarnon, Ann M.

    AU - Ross, Caroline

    AU - Heistermann, Michael

    AU - Semple, Stuart

    PY - 2008/3

    Y1 - 2008/3

    N2 - Primate sexual swellings are hormone-dependent sexual signals that play a key role in determining patterns of behavior. They are among the most conspicuous signals exhibited by any mammal, and their large size and bright coloration have fascinated evolutionary biologists for well over a century. A number of different adaptive hypotheses have been proposed for the evolution of sexual swellings, and there have been several recent attempts to test some of these using precise swelling measurements made in the field. Most of these studies have focused only on the size element of the swelling, and those that have measured other aspects of swellings, such as color, have done so only crudely. A focus solely on swelling size is inconsistent with most theoretical models of mate choice, which emphasize the importance of multiple cues within sexual signals. Here, we present data on baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) sexual swellings, including measures of both swelling size and color, measured objectively using digital photography at Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria. We combined these measurements with detailed data on fecal progestogen and estrogen levels, and estimates of the timing of ovulation and the fertile period around ovulation based on those levels. We show that swelling color and size vary independently, and that, consistent with results in other species, swelling size contains information about the timing of ovulation and the fertile period. However, we show that swelling color does not contain such information. In addition, swelling size contains information about female parity, and we found some evidence to suggest that color may also contain such information. These results indicate that baboon sexual swellings may contain information about multiple aspects of female fertility. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding the nature of swellings as behavioral signals, and the role of swellings in mate choice.

    AB - Primate sexual swellings are hormone-dependent sexual signals that play a key role in determining patterns of behavior. They are among the most conspicuous signals exhibited by any mammal, and their large size and bright coloration have fascinated evolutionary biologists for well over a century. A number of different adaptive hypotheses have been proposed for the evolution of sexual swellings, and there have been several recent attempts to test some of these using precise swelling measurements made in the field. Most of these studies have focused only on the size element of the swelling, and those that have measured other aspects of swellings, such as color, have done so only crudely. A focus solely on swelling size is inconsistent with most theoretical models of mate choice, which emphasize the importance of multiple cues within sexual signals. Here, we present data on baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis) sexual swellings, including measures of both swelling size and color, measured objectively using digital photography at Gashaka-Gumti National Park, Nigeria. We combined these measurements with detailed data on fecal progestogen and estrogen levels, and estimates of the timing of ovulation and the fertile period around ovulation based on those levels. We show that swelling color and size vary independently, and that, consistent with results in other species, swelling size contains information about the timing of ovulation and the fertile period. However, we show that swelling color does not contain such information. In addition, swelling size contains information about female parity, and we found some evidence to suggest that color may also contain such information. These results indicate that baboon sexual swellings may contain information about multiple aspects of female fertility. We discuss the implications of these results for understanding the nature of swellings as behavioral signals, and the role of swellings in mate choice.

    KW - Coloration

    KW - Primate

    KW - Sexual selection

    KW - Signaling

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=39149131710&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=39149131710&partnerID=8YFLogxK

    U2 - 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019

    DO - 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.11.019

    M3 - Article

    C2 - 18206889

    AN - SCOPUS:39149131710

    VL - 53

    SP - 452

    EP - 462

    JO - Hormones and Behavior

    JF - Hormones and Behavior

    SN - 0018-506X

    IS - 3

    ER -