Digit ratio (2D:4D) and dominance rank in female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Emma Nelson, Christy L. Hoffman, Melissa S. Gerald, Susanne Shultz

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Female rhesus macaques exhibit matrilineal dominance structures, and high dominance rank confers fitness benefits across a lifetime and across generations. Rank effects are "inherited" through social processes that are well understood; however, biological mechanisms that might impact these processes are not well known. Recently, it has been shown that prenatal androgens appear to be implicated in supporting dominance rank hierarchies in some mammals. In humans, interindividual differences in the second (index) to fourth (ring) digit ratio (2D:4D) have been linked indirectly to variation in prenatal androgens, with low 2D:4D in both sexes associated with higher inferred prenatal androgen effects. 2D:4D has also been related to dominant social behavior and has been shown to co-vary with social systems across nonhuman primate species. Here, we investigate how 2D:4D co-varies with socially inherited dominance rank in female rhesus macaques. Low 2D:4D was associated with higher-ranking females, while higher 2D:4D was associated with lower-ranking females. Similar relationships were also shown between ranked families within matrilines. This is the first study to show such a relationship between 2D:4D and dominance rank in a nonhuman primate and suggests that prenatal androgen effects could be involved in the maintenance of dominance rank in female cercopithecine primates. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1001-1009
    Number of pages8
    JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - May 2010


    • Aggression
    • Competition
    • Dominance rank
    • Prenatal androgens
    • Prenatal programming
    • Primates


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