Female behavioral proceptivity functions as a probabilistic signal of fertility, not female quality, in a New World primate
Tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella) provide an extreme example of active female sexual solicitation of males. In spite of being targeted by females for sex, males may delay copulation for hours or days. Data were collected on the sexual interactions in one wild capuchin group at the Estação Biológica de Caratinga in Brazil from September 1996 to August 1997. All successful conceptions during this year occurred in the dry season, yet sexual behavior was observed during 9 months of the year. This study tested whether male sexual response to female proceptivity was seasonally-mediated. Male consortship participation, solicitation of females, latency to copulation, and copulation frequency were compared between fertile and nonconceptive females. Seasonal patterns in copulation interference, mating style, and alternative mating strategies were also examined. Thirty-two copulations were observed. The alpha male was solicited for significantly more consortship days per female, but his mating success, in terms of copulation frequency, did not differ from that of two other adult males in the group. In the dry season, when the females were fertile, the males showed increased contest competition for mates, a higher frequency of alternative mating strategies against copulation interference, and increased monitoring of the females' condition. However, contrary to expectations, the alpha male's latency to copulation was significantly longer in the fertile season than in the nonconceptive months, and no males were observed to mate more than one time per day, even at the conceptive peak. Male mating strategies were affected by both season and rank, and there was evidence for reproductive constraints on males throughout the year. Limited male ejaculatory capacity and male choice in the timing of copulations within female proceptive phases may both be important factors in driving the sexual dynamics of this species.