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Glucocorticoid levels in free ranging resident mantled howlers: a study of coping strategies.

  • Cristóbal-Azkarate, Jurgi
  • Chavira, Roberto
  • Boeck, Lourdes
  • Rodríguez-Luna, Ernesto
  • Veà, Joaquím J
Published Article
American journal of primatology
Publication Date
Aug 01, 2007
PMID: 17358001


A growing amount of data shows that a preference for passive-nonaggressive over active-aggressive problem solving is associated with higher levels of glucocorticoids (GC). For mantled howlers, the arrival of an adult male in a new group is a potential source of psychological stress for both resident males and females. Resident mantled howler males take an active stand and aggressively repel the entrance of solitary males, while females take a passive-nonaggressive stand. In order to study whether the relationship between coping strategies and the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis observed in other species applies to the response of resident mantled howlers to the presence of solitary males, we examine the relationship between different group and subpopulation variables and the GC levels measured in feces collected from 10 groups living in six forest fragments, in Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. The results of our study suggest that the resident mantled howler females' passive response to the presence of solitary males is accompanied by the activation of the HPA axis, whereas resident males' aggressive response is not accompanied by any changes in the HPA axis. In contrast, a previous study suggests that resident male howlers respond by increasing their testosterone levels to the presence of solitary males (Cristobal-Azkarate et al., Hormones and Behavior 2006;49 261-267). These different behavioral and hormonal responses coincide with the active and passive coping styles described for other species. The conditions in which howlers live in our study area may be favoring the interaction between solitary and resident howlers, and inducing chronically high GC levels, which in turn could negatively affect the fitness of these subpopulations.

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