Maternal gestational androgens are associated with decreased juvenile play in white-faced marmosets (Callithrix geoffroyi)

Andrew K. Birnie, Shelton E. Hendricks, Adam S. Smith, Ross Milam, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Exposure to androgens during prenatal development shapes both physiological and behavioral developmental trajectories. Notably, in rhesus macaques, prenatal androgen exposure has been shown to increase rough-and-tumble play, a prominent behavioral feature in males during the juvenile period in primates. While macaques are an Old World, polygamous species with marked sexually dimorphic behavior, New World callitrichine primates (marmosets and tamarins) live in cooperative breeding groups and are considered to be socially monogamous and exhibit minimal sexual dimorphism in social play, which suggests that androgen may affect this species in different ways compared to macaques. In addition, we previously described considerable variation in maternal androgen production during gestation in marmosets. Here we tested the association between this variation and variation in offspring rough-and-tumble play patterns in both males and females. We measured testosterone and androstenedione levels in urine samples collected from pregnant marmoset mothers and then observed their offspring's play behavior as juveniles (5-10. months of age). In contrast to findings in rhesus macaques, hierarchical regression analyses showed that higher gestational testosterone levels, primarily in the second semester, were associated with decreased rough-and-tumble play in juveniles, and this relationship appears to be driven more so by males than females. We found no reliable associations between gestational androstenedione and juvenile play behavior. Our findings provide evidence to suggest that normative variation in levels of maternal androgen during gestation may influence developmental behavioral trajectories in marmosets in a way that contradicts previous findings in Old World primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-145
Number of pages10
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Androstenedione
  • Intrauterine environment
  • Maternal androgens
  • Organizational effects
  • Prenatal programming
  • Rough-and-tumble play
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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