Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Marmoset Dads Don't Stray

Marmoset monkeys play with and plot indescretions in a marmoset monkey colony display in the lobby of the National Primate Research Center.

A squirrel-sized primate with white hair dancing out of its ears, the common marmoset finally may dispel tired stereotypes about promiscuous fathers in the animal kingdom.

When psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison exposed marmoset males to the scent of ovulating females, the researchers expected hormone levels to spike in every male as a result of heightened sexual arousal.

But in an unanticipated twist, testosterone levels in marmoset fathers barely wavered in response to the female odor, even as hormones surged in all other non-parents, reported UW-Madison endocrinologist and lead author Toni Ziegler in the January issue of the journal Hormones and Behavior.

"Marmosets like sex, so we expected all males to be responsive to the scent of a sexually receptive female," says Ziegler, who is a senior scientist at UW-Madison's National Primate Research Center, where the marmosets reside. "Instead, we were surprised to find a muted physiological response in fathers."

"This is the first time that scientists have used a primate to demonstrate an immediate testosterone response to a social situation," says senior author Charles Snowdon, chair of the UW-Madison psychology department. "It is a common notion that males are always interested in sex, regardless of their social status. But this study counters what has been seen in all other primates."

Story here.

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