Subspecies Differences in Hormonal and Behavioral Responses After Group Formation in Squirrel Monkeys

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The behavioral and hormonal responses of squirrel monkeys of the Bolivian and Guyanese subspecies were compared after a group formation procedure. Two groups of each subspecies, consisting of five females and three males (later reduced to two) were observed daily during the week of group formation and for nine weeks following removal of a single male from each group. Measures of plasma cortisol were examined in the females after the initial group formation and after the groups were reduced by one male. The levels of plasma testosterone were assessed in all the males during the initial week of group formation. Linear dominance hierarchies were determined both within and across the sexes in both subspecies. The frequency and directionality of low-level aggressive interactions indicated that females of the Bolivian subspecies were dominant to the males, while the males of the Guyanese subspecies ranked over all the females. Additionally, the Bolivian squirrel monkey females showed an elevation of plasma cortisol on the day of group formation, which declined 48 hr later, then reelevated after the groups were reduced by one male and declined gradually over a nine-week period. Guyanese females showed little change in cortisol levels during both periods. This suggests fundamental hormonal, as well as behavioral, differences between the two subspecies. The change in plasma testosterone levels in the males during the initial week of group formation was positively correlated with social status. Furthermore, differences in the dynamics within individual groups for each subspecies were reflected by the levels of plasma cortisol of the female members.



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