Sex differences in mortality of Japanese macaques: twenty-one years of data from the Arashiyama West population

Am J Phys Anthropol. 1997 Feb;102(2):161-75. doi: 10.1002/(SICI)1096-8644(199702)102:2<161::AID-AJPA2>3.0.CO;2-1.


Theorists argue that mortality in male mammals should be higher than that of females, and many studies of primates followed across the life course have found this to be the case. This study examines mortality patterns in the rapidly expanding Arashiyama West (Texas) population of Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) and finds that males have a significantly lower median survival age (12.2 years) in comparison to females (20.5 years). Males and females are born in equal proportions, but by adulthood there are 2-5 females to every male. Males are at higher risk of falling victim to infectious diseases and human-related causes of death, and they are more likely to "disappear" from the population, which is inferred to result largely from emigration. There are no significant sex differences in the risks of dying from predation, non-infectious illnesses, neonatal defect, or social stress. Males become more susceptible to mortality than females once they reach sexual maturity, and they remain at greater risk than females until their old age. There is no evidence that one sex or the other is at greater risk of dying as infants, or as juveniles. Comparing males of different age classes, adolescent and adult males are more likely to die and to disappear than are juvenile males. These findings support the "high-risk, high-gain" hypothesis that males are mainly lost to the population because of their risk-taking behaviors after sexual maturity, rather than the "fragile male" hypothesis that males are more vulnerable to mortality during the period of growth and development.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cause of Death
  • Female
  • Macaca*
  • Male
  • Monkey Diseases / mortality
  • Mortality*
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Survival Analysis
  • Texas