Female marmosets' behavioral and hormonal responses to unfamiliar intruders

Corinna N. Ross, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


The endocrine control mechanisms for female mammalian aggression have been largely unstudied. Although it has been proposed that androgens may modulate female aggressive behavior in a similar manner to males, very little conclusive evidence exists. Previous work in male marmosets found that post-encounter increases in testosterone (T) were dependent on the intensity of aggression displayed during the aggressive encounter. We exposed female marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii), a monogamous and biparental primate, to aggressive interactions with unfamiliar intruders. Individual female marmosets exhibited changes in T and estradiol (E 2) that are associated with aggressiveness dependent on the intensity of aggression displayed as well as their role during the encounter. Resident females exhibited increased E 2 immediately following an encounter in which they displayed high rates of aggression. If resident females received high rates of aggression from the intruder, the resident displayed increased T 24hr following the encounter. Interestingly, if the female was an intruder in the encounter, the intensity of her aggression was associated with increased cortisol immediately following the trials, whereas received aggression was associated with increased T and E 2 immediately following the trial. Female primates do exhibit situation-dependent changes in gonadal steroids in association with aggression that may serve to prime them for future aggressive interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1072-1081
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Aggression
  • Challenge hypothesis
  • Intruder challenge
  • Neuroendocrine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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