A comparison of female mating strategies in Pan troglodytes and Pongo spp.

R. M. Stumpf, M. Emery Thompson, C. D. Knott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Orangutans and chimpanzees differ in many aspects of their mating and social systems. Nevertheless, because both great apes require enormous maternal investment in offspring and because female reproductive potential is limited, female orangutans and chimpanzees should be selective of their mates, yet expected to exhibit anti-infanticide strategies such as mating with multiple males. We review and compare mating patterns in orangutans and chimpanzees to understand how these critical pressures are filtered through the different demands of the socioecology of each species. We highlight the variation in female mating behavior as a function of the proximity of ovulation. We conclude that both genera pursue tactics for paternity confusion by mating with multiple males and by mating cooperatively or even proceptively with nonpreferred partners when conception is unlikely. Mating selectivity is suggested by variation in proceptive behavior toward particular partners and by increased resistance of nonpreferred partners during the periovulatory period. Thus, data for both species support a mixed mating strategy whereby females shift their mating behavior in accordance with ovulatory status to accommodate the competing demands of mate selectivity and paternity confusion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)865-884
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Primatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2008


  • Chimpanzees
  • Female mate choice
  • Orangutans
  • Reproductive strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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