High-Ranking Male Primates Keep Wafting Their Sex Stink at Females, Who Hate It

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Researchers name it “stink flirting.” A male ring-tailed lemur rubs his signature scent onto his lengthy, fluffy tail, then waves it over his head within the path of a close-by feminine. Males appear to intend this gesture as a sexual overture. However it usually will get them into fights—with lemurs of each sexes. In truth, scientists aren’t positive stink flirting helps male lemurs in any respect.

Scent is a crucial communication instrument for ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Each women and men have scent glands on their genitals that they use to mark their territory. Male lemurs have additional scent glands on their chests and wrists, which make totally different smelly secretions the lemurs use or mix for various functions.

Typically male lemurs rub secretions from their chest and wrist glands into their tail fur. Then they could wave their tails at different male lemurs—one thing researchers name a “stink combat.” On this case the tail-waving is an “aggressive act,” write Amber Walker-Bolton of the College of Toronto and Joyce Parga of California State College, Los Angeles.

However at different instances, male lemurs wave their stink-ified tails at females as a substitute. “When males sign to females on this approach, they gaze immediately at the receiving feminine, usually in shut proximity,” the authors write. Stink flirting hasn’t been studied as a lot as stink preventing has, so the researchers went to a nature protect close to the southern tip of Madagascar to analyze.

The scientists noticed two teams of untamed lemurs, in addition to two outsider males who have been making an attempt to affix one of many teams. Though females rule ring-tailed lemur society, the researchers noticed that the social rank of males mattered: higher-ranking males did extra stink flirting.

This flirting got here at a price. Whereas common scent marking hardly ever obtained males in bother, waving their pungent tails at females was met with aggression greater than half of the time. That aggression often got here from the feminine lemur who obtained waved at.

Walker-Bolton and Parga assume stink flirting could also be an “sincere sign,” a approach for a male animal to indicate a feminine he has good genes to provide her offspring. If males can afford pricey shows—large horns or tails that weigh them down; smelly indicators that get them into fights—then they’ll be wholesome mates, the logic goes.

However for lemurs, that pricey sign doesn’t have an apparent profit. The researchers didn’t discover proof that stink-flirting males obtained to mate any extra usually. The researchers might have missed some sneaky mating occasions, they are saying.

Nonetheless, females appeared extra more likely to make “sexual shows” to males who had waved pungent tails of their path. These shows are a prelude to mating. So—even when it chagrins most different animals round them—males might discover it worthwhile to maintain making smelly shows.


Picture: Devin Sturgeon

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