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Stability of breeding and non-breeding groups of golden-headed lion tamarins (leontopithecus chrysomelas)

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In Callitrichid primates, offspring remain in their natal group beyond the age of sexual maturity, increasing the group's inclusive fitness by cooperatively rearing their siblings. Contraception of the dominant female in these groups may alter the associated costs and benefits of this cooperative rearing in such a way that offspring themselves attempt to breed when a period longer than the normal inter-birth interval of one year has elapsed. Contraception of the dominant female may also induce changes in socio-sexual interactions between group members, which can lead to increased aggression after a short period. In this study, we investigated the occurrence of aggression in 16 captive groups of golden-headed lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas) under three conditions: 1) no contraception used; 2) contraception used and offspring younger than one year present within the group; and 3) contraception used and all offspring in the group older than one year. Wefound that the probability of aggression occurring in the groups was best predicted by logistic regression models containing the factors 'group size' and 'overall proportion of males' or 'number of sons '. Aggression was more likely in larger groups with a high proportion of males or a large number of sons. This effect was significantly stronger for groups in which all offspring were older than one year. Absence of dispersal opportunities and differences in male and female reproductive strategies may explain the observed patterns. The increased instability of large non-breeding groups presents a problem when using long-term contraceptive methods and should be taken into account when making decisions on the most suitable population-control procedures.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 May 2003

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