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Homosexual incest avoidance among females in captive Japanese macaques.

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American Journal of Primatology 23:171-183 (1991)
Homosexual Incest Avoidance Among Females in
Captive Japanese Macaques
BERNARD CHAPAIS AND CHRISTIANE MIGNAULT
Dkpartement d'Anthropologie, Uniuersite de Montreal, Montreal, Canada
This paper reports a systematic pattern of homosexual incest avoidance
among females in a captive group of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)
culled from the Arashiyama-West troop known for its high rates of female
homosexuality. The study group included three matrilines and two generations. Between eight and 11 females were sexually active over four
consecutive mating seasons, and all engaged in both heterosexual and
homosexual activity. While all females performed homosexual acts with
almost all possible non-kin partners, they systematically avoided homosexual interactions with their mother, daughters, and sisters. This pattern
could not be explained either in terms of kin not being simultaneously in
estrus, kin avoiding affiliative interactions in general, or non-kin utilizing
the tension-reducing effect of estrus to affiliate exclusively with each
other. In contrast to homosexual females, heterosexual pairs of relatives
(brother-sister, mother-son) were sometimes incestuous. Assuming that
female homosexuality expresses the reproductive strategy of females unconstrained by male influence, the present results point to the strong
tendency of females to avoid incest and suggest that males are primarily
responsible for the reported exceptions to incest avoidance.
Key words: female homosexuality, sexual behavior, Mucucu fuscata
INTRODUCTION
Incest avoidance between parents and offspring, and between siblings, is a
relatively well-documented phenomenon in nonhuman primates. The fact that in
most primate species the members of one sex, or of both, leave their natal group
around puberty [Pusey & Packer, 19871 accounts for an important part of that
phenomenon. But even in situations in which inbreeding would be possible, for
example in the case of mature males lingering in their natal troop [Koford, 1963;
Tilford, 1982; Chapais, 1983al or in captive groups (dispersal prevented), intrafamilial incest appears to be generally avoided. Mother-son mating either has not
been observed [Tokuda, 1961-1962; Baxter & Fedigan, 1979; Wolfe, 1979; Pusey,
1980; Paul & Kuester, 1985; Smuts, 1985; Taylor & Sussman, 19851 or has been
reported to take place at low frequencies [Loy, 1971; Sade, 1968,1972; Itani, 1972;
Received for publication February 14,1990; revision accepted October 15, 1990.
Address reprint requests to Bernard Chapais, Departement d'Anthropologie, Universite de Montreal,
C.P. 6128, Succ. A, Montrbal, Canada H3C 357.
0 1991 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
172 / Chapais and Mignault
Enomoto, 1978; Murray & Smith, 19831. Similarly, brother-sister mating either
has not been reported [Baxter & Fedigan, 1979; Chapais, 198313; Paul & Kuester,
1985; Taylor & Sussman, 19851 or has been observed at low frequencies [Sade,
1972; Wolfe, 1979; Pusey, 1980; Goodall, 19861. Moreover, when mother-son or
brother-sister matings do occur, they usually involve immature or adolescent
males who may not be fertile [Loy, 1971; Sade, 1972; Missakian, 1973; Savage &
Malick, 19771. Father-daughter incest appears infrequent as well in monogamous
species [e.g., Abbott, 19841, one-male groups [Kummer, 1968; Dunbar & Dunbar,
19751, and multi-male groups [Packer, 1979; Pusey, 1980; Scott, 1984; Smuts,
1985; Goodall, 19861.
Incest avoidance, therefore, appears to be a general characteristic of heterosexual activity in nonhuman primates. In the present paper, we are concerned with
the extension of incest avoidance into the realm of homosexual activity. Female
homosexuality has been observed in many primate species [Akers & Conaway,
19791. In some species, homosexual females exhibit behaviors typical of heterosexual activity. They form consortships lasting between hours and days during which
they mount, groom, and huddle. It is noteworthy that homosexual females are not
exclusively so; they also engage in heterosexual activity. In Japanese macaques,
the proportion of females engaging in homosexual activity over a given mating
season varied between troops and between years. For example, in the ArashiyamaWest troop (Texas), that proportion varied between 78% [Wolfe, 19791 and 51%
[Gouzoules and Goy, 19831. In the Arashiyama B troop (Japan),it varied between
47% [Takahata, 19821and 27% [Wolfe, 19861,and in the Oregon troop, it was lower
than 12% over four mating seasons [Eaton, 19781. Wolfe [1984,1986] has proposed
that high rates of female homosexuality express a quest for sexual novelty and are
ultimately related to alterations in the sex ratio.
Some data suggest that incest avoidance extends to homosexual activity. For
example, in Japanese macaques, Wolfe [19791, Baxter & Fedigan [19791, and
Gouzoules & Goy [ 19831 reported no homosexual consortships between mother and
daughters and none between sisters.
On theoretical grounds, the issue of the relation between incest avoidance and
homosexual activity may contribute t o a better understanding of the proximate
and ultimate causes of the phenomenon of incest avoidance in general. In heterosexual activity, mate selection reflects a compromise between the reproductive
strategies of each sex (i.e., between female selectiveness and male promiscuity,
according to sexual selection theory). On the other hand, in the case of homosexuality, Symons [19791 has suggested that mate selection reflects primarily the
mating strategy of'the sex involved. This author has interpreted several contrasting characteristics of human male and female homosexuality in that perspective
(number of partners, faithfulness, etc.). According to this hypothesis, female homosexuality would express female choice in the absence of any influence by males.
Under this assumption, the analysis of the identity of homosexual female partners
might allow one to isolate the attitude of females toward incest. Similarly, male
homosexuality might make it possible to study male choice of sexual partners in
the absence of female influence.
Parental investment theory states that in mammals females should have a
stronger interest than do males in the avoidance of incest because they generally
invest more than do the latter in each offspring and have more to lose from inbreeding depression [Trivers, 1972; Clutton-Brock & Harvey, 19761. Combining
this principle with Symons's [ 19791 hypothesis, we would expect female homosexuality to reflect a degree of incest avoidance more pronounced than the degree
characterizing homosexual males or heterosexual partners.
Homosexual Incest Avoidance in Macaques I 173
TABLE I. Sexually Mature Individuals, Number of Observation Days, and Mean
Number of Observation Hours Per Day for Each of the Four Mating Seasons
Data
collection
Sexually mature individuals
Mating
season
No. Hours/
K A A1 A2 A3 A4 B B1 B2 B3 B4 B5 C C1 C3 C4 davs
dav
1985-86
1986-87
1987-88
1988-89
m
m
m
m
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
m
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f
m
f
f
f f
f
f
f
f
f
f
f f m 1
57
86
182
1 5
2.5
2
5.5
3.5
m: male: f: female
In this paper, we present data on female homosexuality in a captive subgroup
of Japanese macaques culled from the Arashiyama-West troop known for its high
rate of female homoxexuality (see above). The rate of female homosexuality was
particularly high in the study group, a situation which provided a quantitatively
solid basis for the present analysis.
METHODS
Subjects
A group of 15 Japanese macaques from the Arashiyama-West troop (translocated to Texas; see Clark & Mano [1975]) was established at the Universite de
Montreal in the summer of 1984. This group consisted of an adult male (K) and
three matrilines with similar age-sex compositions. In each matriline, the mother
(named A, B, or C) was born in 1971 or 1973 and had three immature daughters,
born in 1981, 1982, and 1983, and one son born in 1984 (the 1982 daughter of C
could not be obtained). One female died (Al, in April 1988), and 16 individuals
have been born since then. The A and C families were members of the same
genealogy (Betta), but were distantly related through the great-grandmother of A
and C. The B matriline belonged to another genealogy (Rotte), and the adult male,
to a third one (Kujiro). The A-B-C notation refers to the dominance rank of matrilines (see below).
The present analysis focuses on the four mating seasons extending between
the autumn of 1985 and the winter of 1989. Mating seasons ranged between September and March, with some yearly variation relating to the number of pregnant
females. Sexually mature individuals during each of these seasons are listed in
Table I. Females had their first estrus a t 3.5 years so that between eight and 11
females were sexually active depending on the mating season. Note that female A1
died before the onset of the fourth mating season. The sons of the three matriarchs
(A4, B4, and C4) were all sexually active (series mounting) at 3.5 years of age
(third mating season), but were sexually mature (i.e., ejaculated) at 4.5 years of
age (except for B4 who ejaculated a few times at 3.5 years).
Housing
The monkeys occupied two indoor rooms (7.2 x 4.4 x 3 m; 4.7 x 3.3 x 3 m)
and an outdoor pen (10 x 3 x 5 m) throughout the year. From June 1987 on, they
had access to a third indoor room (6 x 5 x 3 m). All rooms and the outdoor pen
were equipped with cables and suspended boards. The animals were fed daily with
monkey chow and various types of seeds distributed in the deep woodchip litter of
the indoor rooms. Fruits and vegetables were distributed every day, and water was
available ad libitum.
174 / Chapais and Mignault
Behaviors
Homosexual females mounted each other, in general reciprocally, using different positions: double-foot clasp, sitting on their partner’s back, or lying on it.
They often performed pelvic thrusts or rubbed their clitoris on their partner, often
looking at and pulling each other’s fur. In order to prompt a mount by their
partner, they could slap the ground, emit high-pitched vocalizations, present their
hindquarters, or run away and come back presenting. Between mounts, they usually stayed in proximity, groomed each other, and huddled. Such associations extended over several days and weeks and were usually intense (as evidenced, for
example, by the number of mounts, see below). Consortships were terminated with
a change of partner or with the end of estrus. Females engaging in homosexual
activity had all the characteristics of estrous females: reddening of the face and
perineum, perineal swellings in the case of 3 year olds, high rates of sexual vocalizations, all behavioral components typical of heterosexual activity, higher activity
levels, etc. Thus, the form and temporal patterning of homosexual interactions had
much in common with heterosexual activity (for further details, see Wolfe [ 1979,
19841).
An homosexual dyad was defined as one in which the females mounted each
other repeatedly (regardless of the type of mounts). Since this paper is concerned
with the distribution of homosexual activity among females, not with homosexual
behavior per se, only the frequencies of mounts were analyzed. This criterion
appeared to be the most significant because females who mounted each other
always performed the other behaviors mentioned above. On the basis of the frequencies of mounts, we calculated the number of days in consort for each female
pair for each season and the number of homosexual partners per female.
Dominance relations were determined on the basis of the direction of submissive behaviors (supplantations, fear grimaces, and flights). Data on the direction of
inter-familial dominance relationships in the whole group are given elsewhere
[Chapais, 1988; Chapais et al., in press]. Over the four mating seasons, the members of the B matriline submitted to the members of the A matriline and the
members of the C matriline submitted to both the A and B matrilines.
Data Collection
The monkeys were observed from a central observation booth. The observability was excellent. Data were coded on paper in a temporal sequence marked by
l-minute intervals. Table I gives the number of observation days and observation
hours per day for each of the mating seasons. Data collection extended between
08:30 hours and 16:OO hours on weekdays and between 1O:OO hours and 14:OO
hours during weekends.
During the first three mating seasons, focal sampling on each of the sexually
mature females was carried out. Sexual activity taking place during focal samples,
but not involving the focal individual, was also noted systematically. Because
observability was excellent and sexual interactions are typically long-lasting, such
concurrent, behavior-specific sampling yielded information on all the dyads engaging in sexual activity as well as a very good sample of that activity for each
dyad. During the fourth mating season, due to the requirements of another research project, sexual activity was noted on an ad libitum basis in the course of
focal samples on immature individuals. Again, due to good observability and the
long duration of sexual interactions, all dyads engaging in sexual activity could be
identified. However, the sample of behaviors for each dyad was considerably reduced. Accordingly, the present data from the fourth mating season are limited to
Homosexual Incest Avoidance in Macaques I 175
TABLE 11. Percentage of Observation Days on Which Each Female Was Homosexual
(Regardless of Whether She Was Also Heterosexual on That Day) and Heterosexual
(Regardless of Whether She Was Also Homosexual on That Day)
Mating seasons
1985-1986
1986-1987
1987-1988
1988-1 989
Homosexual
Heterosexual
Homosexual
Heterosexual
Homosexual
Heterosexual
Homosexual
Heterosexual
A
A1
A2
A3
31.5
64.9
49.1
24.6
1.2
1.8
a
8.8
43.9
38.6
17.5
3.5
3.5
b
b
18.1
6.0
2.2
23.1
17.0
1.1
3.8
16.5
20.0
B
31.9
17.0
45.6
40.1
25.8
3.8
26.4
43.4
a
b
14.0
4.7
0.0
7.0
4.7
9.3
1.2
4.7
13.0
b
41.9
64.0
94.2
58.1
1.2
41.9
79.1
34.9
32.2
24.3
6.1
12.2
7.8
9.6
23.5
9.6
12.2
15.7
12.2
12.2
1.7
6.1
6.1
13.9
4.3
14.8
13.9
3.5
Females
B1
B2
B3
B5
C
c1
c3
b
0.0
61.4
b
b
3.5
1.8
b
b
27.9
37.2
50.0
b
8.1
1.2
1.2
b
b
0.0
22.0
53.3
8.8
4.4
13.2
aAlhad died.
'The female was sexually immature.
the identity of sexual partners (i.e., data on the frequencies of mounts come from
the first three mating seasons only).
A total of six different observers collected data on sexual activity over the four
mating seasons. Four of them did so over more than one mating season. All were
very familiar with the monkeys. Measures of inter-observer agreement were
taken. In this project, only the mounts were analyzed and the percentages of
agreement among observers for that category of behaviors were 100%.
RESULTS
Kinship and the Distribution of Homosexual Activity Among Females
All females engaged in both heterosexual and homosexual activity over the
four mating seasons (Table 11).This indicates that homosexuality was not confined
to any mating season and that it did not constitute an exclusive type of sexual
activity for any female, matriline, or age group.
Table I11 presents the distribution of mounts among sexually mature females
over the first three mating seasons. Although all females mounted other females,
none of the kin dyads (mother-daughter, sister-sister) were homosexual (N = 30
cells), whereas 82.5% of the non-kin dyads (N = 80 cells) engaged in homosexuality. Table IV gives the total number of days during which each pair of females
engaged in homosexual activity. This table includes the fourth mating season (see
Methods) and, thus, one additional female who had her first estrus (B5). Again,
none of the 19 kin dyads were homosexual, whereas 78.7% of the 47 non-kin dyads
were homosexual (x2 = 34.0, df = 1,P < 0.001). Females mounted an average of
six females (range four to seven) out of a maximum of seven non-kin partners for
an A or B female or eight non-kin partners for a C female.
Mounts were bidirectional within dyads (distributed on both sides of the diagonal in Table 111). Of the 10,035 mounts recorded, 57.4% were performed by the
dominant female of the pair, and 42.6%, by the subordinate female. There were 21
dyads in which the dominant female mounted the subordinate female more often
176 I Chapais and Mignault
TABLE 111. Distribution of Homosexual Mounts Among Sexually Mature Females Over
the First Three Mating Seasons
Mountees
Mounters
A
A1
A2
A3
\
A
A1
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
C
44
153
127
201
9
111
199
c1
c3
166
164
412
183
41
202
125
255
149
303
238
31
39
138
211
404
1121
195
213
B
B1
B2
B3
C
C1
C3
100
107
165
159
63
167
126
145
95
113
40
123
51
26
82
132
270
320
72
79
425
166
19
401
99
120
56
22
66
100
57
TABLE IV. Total Number of Days on Which Each Pair of Females Engaged in
Homosexual Activity Over the Four Mating Seasons
A
21
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
B5
C
Cl
c3
A1
\
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
22
7
25
19
25
43
41
40
45
19
37
52
11
29
9
B5
3
C
C1
C3
10
9
6
4
7
17
42
39
18
19
85
28
4
8
3
17
26
16
11
29
\
'
1
than the reverse and 13 dyads in which the subordinate female mounted more
often. This difference is not significant (Wilcoxon test, N of pairs = 34, Z = 1.71,
two-tailed P > 0.05).
In summary, females engaged in homosexuality with almost all possible extrafamilial partners, but never with their mother, daughters, and sisters. The direction of mounting was not related to the relative rank of the two partners.
Alternative Explanations to Incest Avoidance
Before concluding that the absence of homosexuality among matriline members reflects a pattern of incest avoidance, we must eliminate at least three alternative explanations. First, this absence might simply be an artifact of the timing
of estrous periods. It might result from the possibility that any two members of the
same matriline had never or rarely been in estrus simultaneously, i.e., the estrous
periods of non-kin females would have overlapped, while those of kin would not
have. Table V shows that this was not the case. The members of the same matriline
often had overlapping estrous periods. The mean number of days during which any
female pair were simultaneously in estrus was 48.9 for non-kin females and 40.8
Homosexual Incest Avoidance in Macaques / 177
TABLE V. Number of Days During Which Each Pair of Females Were Simultaneously
in Estrus During the Four Mating Seasons
A
A1
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
B5
C
C1
C3
52
108
26
41
34
45
69
38
82
119
84
43
109
94
-
10
9
15
27
17
61
100
69
73
59
123
103
17
42
1
5
2
4
9
18
24
40
69
~
A
A1
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
B5
C
c1
c3
32
27
82
91
29
13
64
\
Al-B5 dyad: at the time B5 had her first estrus (fourth mating season), A1 had died.
for females of the same matriline. This difference is not significant (Mann-Whitney
test, Z = 0.945, P > 0.05). Thus, members of the same matriline did not engage in
homosexual activity with one another despite the fact that they were often simultaneously in estrus.
Second,the absence of intra-matrilineal homosexuality might be the extension
of a more global pattern of low affiliation rates among kin in this particular group.
It could be that the members of the same matriline affiliated very little, either
during the mating or during the non-mating season. Table VI presents the distribution of grooming among females during one mating season, and Table VII,
during one non-mating season. In marked contrast to the absence of mounts among
matriline members (Table 111),grooming was frequent among kin both during the
mating and the non-mating seasons. In fact, grooming was much more frequent
among kin than among non-kin over both seasons (Mann-Whitney test; mating
season: Z = 4.29, P < 0.001;non-mating season: Z = 4.53, P < 0.001). These data
indicate that the absence of homosexuality among female kin was not simply one
manifestation of a more general tendency by kin to avoid affiliation.
Third, the absence of female homosexuality within matrilines might reflect
not so much the fact that kin actively avoided each other, but that the context of
estrus allowed females to fully express their attractiveness to non-kin females.
Assuming 1) that non-kin females are attracted to each other in general, 2) that
tension is greater among non-kin females than among kin, and 3) that such tension
is more easily overcome (i.e., females are less inhibited) in a context of sexual
receptiveness, homosexuality would be expected to be more frequent among nonkin. In other words, females might utilize the context of estrus to affiliate with
non-kin.
A number of considerations, however, suggest that this hypothesis does not
fully account for the absence of intra-matrilineal homosexuality in the present
group. Assuming that tension is indeed lower among female kin (and knowing that
kin are attracted to each other in general), one would not expect them to avoid
specifically sexual interactions, unless some form of inhibition is present. On the
other hand, the available evidence indicates that some degree of tension is likely
to be present in all social relationships, kin and non-kin. For example, intramatrilineal competition for dominance among females is often pronounced in mon-
178 / Chapais and Mignault
TABLE VI. Distribution of Grooming Among Females During the 1986-1987
Mating Season
G roome e s
Gr o o me r s
A
A1
A
A1
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
C
c1
c3
2
13
1
30
49
52
1.7
12
1.6
A2
A3
31
40
31
94
12
52
B
B1
B2
B3
C
16
10
36
17
49
1
10
54
68
73
10
11
29
37
12
46
12
14
80
C1
C3
18
38
Based on 3,000 on-the-minute scan samples (50 hours) collected over 20 days between October 1 and December
16, 1986. Figures are frequencies of scan samples with grooming.
TABLE VII. Distribution of Grooming Among Females During the Non-mating
Season of 1985
G roome e s
Gr o o me r s
A
A1
A2
A3
B
B1
B2
B3
C
c1
c3
A
23
A1
31
94
74
A2
A3
86
36
13
16
38
B
El
B2
B3
13
13
17
3
8
13
78
C
C1
C3
38
18
16
89
51
24
6
3
58
4
16
11
9
2
8
6
20
8
37
17
31
4
23
10
33
5
17
22
32
13
68
Based on 2,400 on-the-minute scan samples taken over 20 days between J une 3 and July 5, 1985. Figures are
frequencies of scan samples with grooming.
keys [e.g., Lee, 1987; Datta, 19881, and the present group was no exception to that
rule (personal observation). Thus, kin, as well as non-kin, would be expected to
benefit from the tension-reducing effect of estrus t o affiliate with each other. This
is hard to reconcile with the observed total absence of sexual interactions among
female kin.
Also, according to the above hypothesis, rates of affiliation among non-kin
females would be expected to be significantly higher during estrous periods compared to periods outside of these. However, the incest avoidance hypothesis makes
the same prediction and such a comparison, therefore, would not constitute a valid
test of the present hypothesis. Lastly, still according to the present hypothesis,
most of the tension between any two non-kin females would be expected to be felt
by the subordinate female of the pair. On this basis, one would predict that the
lower-ranking female would be considerably more active than would her dominant
Homosexual Incest Avoidance in Macaques J 179
TABLE VIII. Heterosexual Activity of the Male Members of the Three Matrilines
Mating
Males
A4
B4
c4
season
1987-88
1988-89
1987-88
1988-89
1987-88
1988-89
Females
A
A1
A2
A3
10
5"
10
5
-
6"
1
4"
2
3
B
1
1
1
8"
2"
33
7
B1
B2
2
3
2
1
1
B3
2
4"
4
1
1
15
6"
B5
C
-
-
-
3"
4
6"
5
1
C1
C3
1
1
5
5"
1
9"
12"
2
2
Figures are the number of days on which the male series mounted the female at least once. B5 was not sexually
active during the 1987-1988 mating season, and A1 died prior to the 1988-1989 mating season.
"The male was seen ejaculating at least once.
partner in initiating and maintaining homosexual interactions. This prediction,
however, is not supported by the present data. The frequencies with which female
partners initiated homosexual interactions by approaching each other (within an
arm's reach) were calculated for the best-documented mating season (the second
one). Of all approaches recorded (N = 2,8831, 52.2% were performed by the dominant female of the pair (N = 23 pairs) and there was no significant difference
between the number of approaches by the dominant and the subordinate females
(Wilcoxon test; N = 21, T = 94, P > 0.05). Overall, these arguments render
unlikely the hypothesis that the tension-reducing effect of estrus fully accounts for
the absence of homosexuality among members of the same matriline.
Kinship and the Distribution of Heterosexual Activity
Table VIII presents data on the heterosexual activity of the male members of
the three matrilines when they became sexually active at 3.5 years and sexually
mature at 4.5 years. Each male series mounted many females, including his sisters
(and mother in the case of C4). Non-incestuous dyads, however, were represented
significantly more frequently than were incestous dyads: 45.5%of the 22 possible
male-female kin dyads engaged in sexual activity, whereas 72.7% of the 44 non-kin
dyads did so (x2 = 4.71, df = 1,P < 0.05). Non-kin dyads also mated on a greater
number of days than expected on the basis of the proportion of kin and non-kin
dyads (x2 = 31.1, df = 1,P < 0.001).
DISCUSSION
The high rates of female homosexuality observed in the present group (Table
11) probably reflected the combination of two factors: 1) the history of female
homosexuality characterizing the Arashiyama-West troop [Wolfe, 1979, 1984,
19861, of which the study group was a subset; and 2) the fact that the study group
included only one adult male, who was aged only 6 years a t the onset of the first
mating season. This atypical situation provided a quantitatively solid basis for the
analysis of the effect of kinship on partner selection among homosexual females.
Although all females had many non-kin homosexual partners, they systematically avoided intra-matrilineal partners. Such selectivity could not be fully accounted for in terms of kin not being simultaneously in estrus, kin avoiding affiliative interactions in general, or non-kin utilizing the tension-reducing effect of
estrus to affiliate exclusively with each other. We conclude, therefore, that the
selectivity of females expressed a pattern of homosexual incest avoidance. This
interpretation does not exclude the possibility that homosexual females derive
180 / Chapais and Mignault
non-sexual benefits from affiliating with non-kin partners. For example, homosexual consortships sometimes led to temporary rank changes, whereby a low-ranking
female (e.g., C l ) outranked the females subordinate to her high-ranking female
partner (e.g., A).
Interestingly, homosexual females always avoided incest, but heterosexual
pairs were sometimes incestuous (brother-sister, mother-son; Table VIII). Although incestuous matings occurred significantly less often than did non-incestuous ones (in agreement with previous reports of heterosexual incest avoidance),
the mere occurrence of heterosexual incest contrasts strongly with the total absence of homosexual incest among females. Thus, when females were the only
potential partners involved, they always avoided incest, whereas when the two
sexes were involved, exceptions did occur. Two explanations for this contrast are
possible.
According to the first of these, which is based on the theory of sexual selection
and parental investment [Trivers, 19721, the above data would support the idea
that males should be generally less selective than are females and, thus, less
reluctant to mate with their kin. Accordingly, males would sometimes initiate
sexual interactions with their kin and be primarily responsible for the observed
cases of incest. In contrast, the pattern of complete incest avoidance found among
homosexual females would reflect the fact that females are more selective and that
they typically do not initiate incestuous interactions.
Some evidence supports this hypothesis. Limited data on the role of the two
sexes in the initiation of incestuous matings were available for the third mating
season, when the three males were sexually active (no quantitative data were
available for the fourth mating season; see Data Collection). Because males A4 and
B4 were seldom incestuous during the third mating season (Table VIII), only the
data for C4 could be analyzed. There were a total of 287 approaches between C4
and females unrelated to him on the days he series-mounted the latter; these
females initiated 25.6% of the approaches. In contrast, C4’s three female kin never
approached him on the days he series-mounted them, whereas he approached them
99 times on these days. Other authors have noted that the responsibility of males
in initiating heterosexual incest is greater than that of females. For example, male
chimpanzees sometimes try to copulate with their sisters or mother, but the latter
avoid them [Goodall, 19861. Smuts [1985] has reported that young female baboons
are less attracted by their mother’s male friend (potential father) than by other
males and that they respond less to their sexual advances. These findings contrast
with the active role of females in the initiation of normal heterosexual matings
[e.g., Smuts, 19871.
The foregoing hypothesis refers to Symons’s [19791 idea that homosexual behavior expresses the reproductive strategy of the sex involved (in this case, female
selectiveness), while heterosexual activity reflects a compromise between the male
and female interests. It should be noted that this explanation implies that females
blindly apply a phylogenetically built program of heterosexual incest avoidance in
the context of homosexual interactions. More specifically, their behavior may be
guided by the proximate mechanism that supposedly underlies incest avoidancethe Westermarck [ 18911 effect: Early and prolonged familiarity between individuals would foster sexual repulsion among them.
An alternative explanation for the total absence of homosexual incest among
females makes no reference to the differential reproductive strategies of males and
females. It relates to the Westermarck effect only. If, in the course of ontogeny,
females affiliate with their female kin more extensively than they do with their
male kin, the Westermarck effect would operate more intensely among female kin
Homosexual Incest Avoidance in Macaques / 181
than it would between male and female kin. Some data lend support t o this hypothesis. In savanna baboons and rhesus macaques, immature females affiliate
more with some of their female kin than with some of their male kin [Ehardt &
Bernstein, 1987; Pereira, 19881. These data are limited, however, and the extent of
such differential familiarity remains to be ascertained more fully.
In any case, even if it were found that the degree of familiarity between female
kin was indeed greater than that between male and female kin, other evidence
indicates that such differential familiarity is not sufficient to account for the
present contrast between homosexual and heterosexual incest avoidance. First,
one would expect a difference of degree between these two patterns, whereas it was
found that homosexual females were never incestuous. Second, if differential familiarity was all that mattered, males and females would not necessarily differ in
their attitude toward incest and we would expect them t o share the responsibility
in initiating it. However, as mentioned previously, the available evidence suggests
that males are more responsible than are females for the exceptions to incest
avoidance. The second hypothesis is therefore unlikely.
CONCLUSIONS
1. All sexually mature females in a captive group of Japanese macaques engaged in homosexual activity over four consecutive mating seasons. While all
females had many non-kin partners, they systematically avoided sexual interactions with their mother, daughters, and sisters.
2. This pattern could not be fully explained in terms of kin not being simultaneously in estrus, kin avoiding affiliative interactions in general, or non-kin
making use of the potential tension-reducing effect of estrus to affiliate exclusively
with each other.
3. In marked contrast with such total absence of incest among homosexual
females, heterosexual pairs were sometimes incestuous.
4. Assuming that female homosexuality reflects the reproductive strategy of
females unconstrained by male influence, the present data point to the strong
tendency of females to avoid incest and suggest that males are primarily responsible for the observed exceptions to that pattern.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We thank Carole Gauthier, Michelle Girard, Alain Houle, FranCois Larose,
and Ginette Primi for technical assistance and Daniel Perusse for critical reading
of the manuscript and for suggesting the third alternative explanation to incest
avoidance. We are grateful to Sarah Hrdy, Meredith Small, and Linda Wolfe for
their constructive criticism of the manuscript. The University of Washington Primate Information Center is gratefully acknowledged for a bibliography on incest
avoidance and homosexual behavior in nonhuman primates. This research was
funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the
Fonds FCAR of the province of Quebec, and the Universite de Montreal.
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