Social correlates of testosterone and ornamentation in male mandrills

Horm Behav. 2008 Aug;54(3):365-72. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2008.05.004. Epub 2008 May 22.


We investigated relationships between fecal androgen concentrations, facial coloration and behaviour in semi-free-ranging male mandrills. We found that fecal androgen levels were significantly positively related to dominance rank, independent of rank stability and the mating period, suggesting that male mandrills live in a permanently aggressive context in which they must actively maintain their dominance status. Facial red coloration was also significantly related to both fecal androgen levels and rank, with high ranking males having both higher androgen levels and redder faces, although dominant males did not always have the highest androgen levels or the reddest faces. Predictive relationships between androgen levels, coloration and rank were short-term. Androgen concentrations and facial redness both increased in the presence of receptive females, as did the former during periods of rank instability. We conclude that male facial redness is likely to represent an honest signal (to other males) of current androgen status, competitive ability and willingness to engage in fights and that females may also use this to assess male condition. Further, our findings provide support for the "challenge hypothesis" as originally proposed for birds by Wingfield.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / physiology
  • Animals
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology
  • Hierarchy, Social*
  • Male
  • Mandrillus / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Social Environment
  • Testosterone / physiology*


  • Testosterone