Propithecus verreauxi socioecology
The primates of Madagascar (Lemuriformes) are unusual among mammals in that polygynous species lack sexual dimorphism, and females dominate males socially in most species. Moreover, lemur groups are relatively small and characterized by even adult sex ratios despite the fact that one male should be able to exclude other males from the group. One hypothesis to explain this combination of behavioral, morphological, and demographic traits (the “lemur syndrome”) postulates that male–male competition is relaxed and, hence, variance in male reproductive success is low. Reproductive skew theory provides a framework for testing this and several related predictions about lemur social evolution. Specifically, low reproductive skew is
also predicted if dominant males or adult females make reproductive concessions to subordinates or if the latter group successfully pursues alternative reproductive tactics.
However, suitable data on paternity, demography, and behavior for a conclusive test of these predictions have not been available in the past. In this paper, we show that male reproductive success in ten groups of Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi) was extremely skewed in
favor of the dominant male over 9 years. Our genetic analyses also revealed that more than a third of all groups are effectively harem groups because only one male was unrelated to the resident female(s). In groups with two or more non-natal males, the dominant sired 91% of 33
infants. Together, males pursuing one of several alternative reproductive tactics, such as roaming among several~groups or immigrating peacefully, sired only 11% of infants.
Thus, female sifakas do not control group composition by offering reproductive opportunities to subordinate males as staying incentives, intrasexual selection is not relaxed, and dominant males prevail in a tug-of-war over subordinatemales. Because male reproductive skew in sifakas is even more pronounced than in harem-living anthropoids studied to date, intrasexual selection is clearly not relaxed, and the lemur syndrome is more puzzling than ever.