By Sosthene Habumuremyi
The overall goal of this study is to investigate the hormonal correlates of socio-sexual behaviors in female mountain gorillas. Specifically, we want to understand the variation observed in mating strategies and fertility parameters among female mountain gorillas. By using hormonal data, we want to know if this variation is governed by internal stimuli. For a detailed analysis, we formulated multiple research questions, centered around different reproductive status of females. We selected our target individuals from nine gorillas groups monitored by Karisoke Research Center. In the field, we have been simultaneously collecting behavioral data as well as urine and feces samples.
Following the end of the field work, we’ll carry out the endocrinological measurements in the laboratory at the Max Planck. The results of this study will characterize the specific behavioral patterns around the time of ovulation in mountain gorillas, specifically mating behavior, patterns of mating solicitations, and any evidence of coercion (aggression) by the silverbacks directed towards the females. Furthermore, we will search for evidence of pregnancy losses. Also, we will provide additional information on adolescent sterility and sexual swellings in female mountain gorillas. The results of this study contribute to our understanding of fertility in gorillas, which is useful information for understanding the potential for the population to increase. Moreover, we hope that this research will help to provide useful information on the evolutionary profile of reproductive behaviors in primates.