Variation in steroid hormones associated with infant care behaviour and experience in male marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii)

Scott Nunes, Jeffrey E. Fite, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


We describe temporal patterns of change in paternal behaviour and urinary concentrations of the steroid hormones testosterone (T) and oestradiol (E2) in male black tufted-ear marmosets, Callithrix kuhlii, relative to the birth of their young, and test predictions of the hypotheses that (1) high levels of T are incompatible with paternal care and (2) levels of T and E2 vary with a father's prior experience in his family group. After young were born, levels of urinary T and E2 remained near prepartum concentrations and rates at which fathers carried infants were below peak levels until the approximate time that postpartum mating ordinarily occurs, suggesting a possible trade-off between readiness to mate and paternal behaviour in C. kuhlii. Infant-carrying behaviour of fathers occurred at its highest rate 3-4 weeks after parturition and coincided with significant declines in urinary levels of T and E2, providing preliminary support for the hypothesis that these hormones are antagonistic to paternal behaviour. Urinary T and E2 declined among fathers regardless of whether their young survived to weaning or died at birth, indicating that variation in these hormones after parturition occurs even in the absence of continued stimuli from infants. When adjusted for declines ordinarily associated with aging, urinary T tended to be lower among fathers with a great deal of prior experience caring for young compared with fathers having little or no experience, suggesting that either experience affects T levels of fathers, or that T levels influence fathers' chances of successfully rearing infants. Overall, our results suggest that in male C. kuhlii, T, and possibly E2, play an important role in balancing the expression of paternal care with that of other reproductive behaviours.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)857-865
Number of pages9
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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