Scratching around mating: Factors affecting anxiety in wild Lemur catta

Sclafani, Valentina, Norscia, Ivan, Antonacci, Daniela and Palagi, Elisabetta (2012) Scratching around mating: Factors affecting anxiety in wild Lemur catta. Primates, 53 (247). ISSN 0032-8332

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Scratching around mating: Factors affecting anxiety in wild Lemur catta
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Scratching has been successfully used to detect anxiety, a proxy for stress, in primates, from strepsirrhines to Homo sapiens. Here, we investigated the fluctuation of scratching in Lemur catta during the mating season. In particular we evaluated whether scratching (1) varied according to sex and rank differences, (2) increased in the period of maximum stress (around the mating days), and (3) was reduced by grooming. At Berenty (South Madagascar), we followed two lemur groups (23 adult/subadult individuals) and gathered data on self-scratching, aggression, and grooming. Based on perineal area features, we recognized two periods: low swelling (LS), with no estrus female, and high swelling (HS), when at least one female was in estrus. We predicted that aggressive behaviors and anxiety-related scratching would covary. Indeed, scratching peaked in HS, when aggression was also highest. In agreement with previous literature, this result suggests that conflicts around estrus days may raise anxiety levels in the social group. We expected scratching levels to be highest in males because they aggressively compete for females and are subject to mate choice and repeated attacks by dominant females. Instead, the scratching rates were similar in males and females, probably because the high competition, which involves both sexes, dampened intersexual differences. In contrast to our prediction, scratching was not rank dependent, probably because animal ranking positions changed from LS to HS. Finally, we showed that, in ring-tailed lemurs, as well as in other primates, scratching decreases after reciprocal grooming in both periods. This finding provides the first evidence that grooming could assist in reducing anxiety in strepsirrhines.

Keywords:aggression, grooming, mating behavior, primate, aggression, animal, anxiety, article, female, Lemuridae, Madagascar, male, physiology, season, sex ratio, sexual behavior, social dominance, Aggression, Animals, Lemur, Seasons, Sex Distribution, Sexual Behavior, Animal, Social Dominance, Berenty Reserve, Madagascar, Animalia, Homo sapiens, Lemur catta, Primates
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C182 Evolution
C Biological Sciences > C120 Behavioural Biology
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Psychology
ID Code:34836
Deposited On:14 Mar 2019 16:27

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