Abstract # 4495 Event # 48:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 20, 2013 04:45 PM-05:00 PM: Session 7 (Las Olas) Oral Presentation


FEMALE SEXUAL STATE INFLUENCES THE COGNITIVE TEST PERFORMANCE OF ZOO-LIVING CHIMPANZEES (PAN TROGLODYTES) BUT NOT GORILLAS (GORILLA GORILLA GORILLA)

K. E. Wagner and S. R. Ross
Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lincoln Park Zoo, 2001 N. Clark, Chicago, IL 60614, USA
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     Nonhuman great ape females exhibit comparably short, human-like reproductive cycles characterized by similar patterns of endocrine variation, along with a related array of species-specific changes in behavior and physiology. Together these factors may interact to robustly influence cognition. Attempts to describe this interaction have focused almost exclusively on the Pan genus and have largely neglected the social influence of the species’ overt advertisement of sexual state. We examined the association between sociosexual status and cognitive performance among two species of African apes: chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and Western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), the latter of which exhibit few physical signs of ovulation. Performance on a computerized sequencing task was assessed in relation to female groupmates’ sexual state, as determined by sexual tumescence (chimpanzees) and cyclical contraception schedules (gorillas). Chimpanzees exhibited lower performance when the social group contained two or more maximally tumescent females (F(1,6)=2.97, p=0.006). Gorillas exhibited no such performance association (F(1,6)=0.45, p=0.27). Chimpanzees’ robust sensitivity may stem in part from overtaxed attentional resources during periods of high receptivity, related to the species’ competitive ecology, compared to the rigidly hierarchical, female-driven mating strategy of the gorilla. These preliminary results suggest that reproductive state exerts a species-specific influence on great ape cognition and we suggest further consideration of these potential influences in future cognitive evaluations.