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Female transference and mate choice among Tana River red colobus


Red colobus are one of a small number of primate species in which females have been reported to transfer between breeding groups more commonly than males1–3. Several authors have hypothesised that in such species transference may serve to reduce the risk to females of producing offspring of lower fitness through inbreeding1–6. The hypothesis offers no explanation of why females rather than males are responsible for outbreeding in these species, but remains plausible so long as male membership of breeding groups is relatively stable; for once members of one sex have evolved dispersal mechanisms reducing the risk of inbreeding, pressures on the other sex to do likewise will be lowered5. Hence, if both sexes commonly migrate, the hypothesis is weakened. I describe here the membership dynamics of a group of Tana River red colobus, Colobus badius rufomitratus, which provide the first evidence of high rates of membership turnover by both sexes in primates, and speculate that the function of female transference in this case may be related to mate choice and the avoidance of infanticide.

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Marsh, C. Female transference and mate choice among Tana River red colobus. Nature 281, 568–569 (1979).

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