Female chimpanzees adjust copulation calls

Illustration by: Lovisa Sundin

Original paper: Fallon, B. L., Neumann, C., Byrne, R. W., & Zuberbühler, K. (2016). Female chimpanzees adjust copulation calls according to reproductive status and level of female competition. Animal Behaviour, 113, 87-92.

If you want to find out more, here is the paper!

Many female animals (and sometimes males) scream during sex, including humans – but why? It may come as a surprise that most research in primates suggests these ‘copulation calls’ are not related to pleasure. Calls instead seem to serve a purpose, such as attracting better mates. In chimpanzees, males direct long-term aggression toward females as a strategy to get females to mate with them, especially older females with offspring. Fallon and colleagues thus set out to test whether females of differing social status produce copulation calls with different tactics. They found that females with offspring were more strategic when giving copulation calls than females without offspring, who called much more often. This reflects male chimpanzees’ preference for older females who are proven mothers by making it necessary for the less popular females to advertise their availability more frequently. At the same time, occasionally young females suppressed calls, like when high-ranking males were nearby – presumably because they were afraid. A helpful analogy might be that of a new Italian restaurant’s employees handing out flyers to publicize the grand opening, but not giving one to the Mob boss who owns the town’s most popular restaurant. Fallon and colleagues concluded that female copulation calls do reflect females’ social status, and that females try to increase male interest by calling.

Contact the illustrator

Lovisa Sundin


Contact the researcher

Brittany Fallon


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