Why Female Lemurs Dominate the Guys: Testosterone

First Posted: May 13, 2015 11:53 AM EDT

Female lemurs may behave a bit more like guys, thanks to some testosterone. While males rule in most of the animal world, lemurs have a very different social pecking order--and scientists may have found out why.

Scientists have long wondered why female lemurs seem to rule it over males. In fact, it's not uncommon for females to bit their mates, snatch a piece of fruit from their hands, whack them in the head or shove them out of prime sleeping spots. In addition, females mark their territories with distinctive scents just as often as the males do, and males don't take their share of a meal until the females have had their fill.

"If a male lemur is enjoying a patch of sunlight, for example, a female is likely to push him aside and take his spot," said Joseph Petty, one of the researchers, in a news release.

Interestingly, female lemurs aren't physically bigger than males. In other species where females are dominant, such as spotted hyenas, the females are usually heavier and larger.

In order to investigate further, the researchers compared six lemur species. They looked at the behavior and hormone profiles in nearly 30 animals in the genus Eulemur. In four of the species, females at the top of the pecking order and in two, the sexes have equal status.

So what did they find? It turns out that the dominant females had significantly higher male hormone levels than the females from the two more egalitarian species. It's possible that females are more sensitive to the effects of testosterone than males, which stimulates aggressive behavior even though males still have more of the hormone.

The findings reveal a bit more about these lemurs and show how females manage to come out on top.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific Reports.

For more great science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

See Now: NASA's Juno Spacecraft's Rendezvous With Jupiter's Mammoth Cyclone

©2017 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission. The window to the world of science news.

Join the Conversation

Real Time Analytics