Date of this Version
Am J Primatol. 2018;80:e22730.
Broadening our knowledge of olfactory communication in strictly monogamous systems can inform our understanding of how chemosignals may facilitate social and reproductive behavior between the sexes. Compared to other social and mating systems, relatively little is known about olfactory communication in strictly monogamous non-human primates. Furthermore, platyrrhines are not well represented in chemical analyses of glandular secretions. We conducted semi-quantitative headspace gas chromatography with mass spectrometry to investigate the chemical components of glandular secretions from the subcaudal and pectoral glands of a strictly pair-living platyrrhine, the owl monkey (Aotus spp.). In this study, the first chemical analysis of a wild platyrrhine population, our goals were to (1) conduct a robust analysis of glandular secretions from both captive and wild owl monkey populations and (2) identify whether biologically relevant traits are present in glandular secretions. We also compared and contrasted the results between two Aotus species in different environmental contexts: wild Aotus azarae (N = 33) and captive A. nancymaae (N = 104). Our findings indicate that secretions from both populations encode sex, gland of origin, and possibly individual identity. These consistent patterns across species and contexts suggest that secretions may function as chemosignals. Our data also show that wild A. azarae individuals are chemically discriminated by age (adult or subadult). Among the captive A. nanycmaae,we found chemical differences associated with location, possibly caused by dietary differences. However, there was no noticeable effect of contraception on the chemical profiles of females, nor evidence that closely related individuals exhibit more similar chemical profiles in A. nancymaae. Overall, our data suggest that glandular secretions of both wild and captive Aotus convey specific information. Future studies should use behavioral bioassays to evaluate the ability of owl monkeys to detect signals, and consider whether odor may ultimately facilitate social and sexual relationships between male and female owl monkeys.