Intensity of aggressive interactions modulates testosterone in male marmosets

Corinna N. Ross, Jeffrey A. French, Kimberly J. Patera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Androgen is associated with the expression of male-typical behavior, including aggressive behavior, but high levels of androgen may be incompatible with other behavioral systems, such as paternal care. In a variety of species of birds that display paternal care, testosterone (T) levels in males are maintained at low levels, and these levels rise only in response to direct agonistic challenges. This idea has not been thoroughly studied in mammals with biparental care, and we exposed male marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii), a monogamous and biparental primate to aggressive interactions with unfamiliar intruders. Urinary levels of T and cortisol (CORT) were monitored prior to and following these interactions. Baseline T was not correlated with variation in aggression in either residents or intruders, and CORT was not affected by the encounters. However, males responded to an encounter with male intruders with changes in T that correlated with the level of aggression displayed by the resident male during the trial. Encounters with male intruders that elicited high frequencies of aggressive displays by the male resident were associated with increased T 2-6 h and 24 h following the encounter, and encounters that had few aggressive displays resulted in no change or a decrease in T concentrations. Intruders did not demonstrate a significant relationship between T and aggression. Thus, the magnitude of the hormonal response is dependent on the intensity of aggression during a male-male encounter, suggesting that elevated androgens are likely to be a consequence, rather than a cause, of aggressive interactions in marmosets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)437-445
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 15 2004


  • Aggression
  • Callitrichid
  • Intruder
  • Marmoset
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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