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Department of Anthropology

Academic Staff

Publication details for Professor Jo Setchell

Setchell, J. M. (2016). Sexual Selection and the Differences Between the Sexes in Mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). American Journal of Physical Anthropology 159(S61): S105-S129.

Author(s) from Durham


Sexual selection has become a major focus in evolutionary and behavioral ecology. It is also a popular research topic in primatology. I use studies of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx), a classic example of extravagant armaments and ornaments in animals, to exemplify how a long-term, multidisciplinary approach that integrates field observations with laboratory methods can contribute to on-going theoretical debates in the field of sexual selection. I begin with a brief summary of the main concepts of sexual selection theory and the differences between the sexes. I then introduce mandrills and the study population and review mandrill life history, the ontogeny of sex differences, and maternal effects. Next, I focus on male-male competition and female choice, followed by the less well-studied questions of female-female competition and male choice. This review shows how different reproductive priorities lead to very different life histories and divergent adaptations in males and females. It demonstrates how broadening traditional perspectives on sexual selection beyond the ostentatious results of intense sexual selection on males leads to an understanding of more subtle and cryptic forms of competition and choice in both sexes and opens many productive avenues in the study of primate reproductive strategies. These include the potential for studies of postcopulatory selection, female intrasexual competition, and male choice. These studies of mandrills provide comparison and, I hope, inspiration for studies of both other polygynandrous species and species with mating systems less traditionally associated with sexual selection.