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Low female stress hormone levels are predicted by same- or opposite-sex sociality depending on season in wild Assamese macaques / Ines Fürtbauer, Michael Heistermann, Oliver Schülke, Julia Ostner, Ines Fuertbauer
Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume: 48, Pages: 19 - 28
Swansea University Author: Ines Fuertbauer
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DOI (Published version): 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.05.022
Low female stress hormone levels are predicted by same- or opposite-sex sociality depending on season in wild Assamese macaques
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Studies on the endocrine stress response, i.e. glucocorticoid output, have become increasingly popular because of the potentially harmful effects of chronic stress in humans and other animals. The social environment is an important mediator of an individual’s stress response, particularly in females of species living in complex societies, e.g. humans and non-human primates, and much work has sought to describe the negative effects of social stress. However, comparatively less is known about the flipside of the social environment, and its positive influence on glucocorticoid secretion. We know that social support can attenuate the stress response, but studies investigating the link between social contact and physiological stress have mainly focussed on female-female instead of both same- and opposite-sex relationships simultaneously. This is surprising given that females can gain fitness benefits from associating with both males and females. In our study, we test the hypothesis that both same- and opposite-sex relationships predict female faecal cortisol levels in strictly seasonally breeding, wild Assamese macaques (Macaca assamensis). We describe how female social relationships vary between mating and non-mating seasons, and show, for the first time in a non-human primate, that not only female-female but also female-male positive social relationships can moderate the female stress response. Overall, our results suggest that social buffering enhances same- and opposite-sex relationships across different reproductive life-history stages.
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