Sociosexual behavior, male mating tactics, and the reproductive cycle of giraffe Giraffa camelopardalis

Female distribution exerts a major impact on male mating tactics. Giraffe cows have a reproductive cycle, and a social system, that should favor a male roaming reproductive tactic. We conducted a 2-year study of female Rothschild's giraffe (G. c. rothschildi) reproductive endocrinology in order to characterize attributes of the reproductive cycle and investigate how female endocrine and behavioral cues influence mating activity. We used non-invasive fecal steroid methods to determine reproductive state among females residing in a herd in a large outdoor enclosure. We found that females had an estrous cycle of 14.7 days and that they regularly had multiple ovarian cycles prior to conception. Adult males were more likely to associate with, and sexually investigate, females when they were cycling than when they were either pregnant or acyclic. During the estrous cycle, male–female proximity and sociosexual behavior were more pronounced during the probable fertile phase than the rest of the cycle. Sexual activity between giraffe coincided with the periovulatory period, with male interest in females peaking during the fertile window in the absence of proceptive behavior by females. We conclude that males detect reliable cues revealing female reproductive status and partition their reproductive effort in response to such cues. We propose that male giraffe adopt a roaming reproductive strategy with their large size, enabling them to search for and mate guard fertile females while minimizing metabolic costs.

Last Updated
January 27, 2021
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