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A case of polygyny in the Bornean white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis)

journal contribution
posted on 28.02.2022, 09:19 by Carolyn Thompson, Eka Cahyaningrum, Hélène Birot, Abdul Aziz, Susan M. Cheyne

Gibbons (family Hylobatidae) typically form groups that encompass a single breeding pair. Here, we present the first evidence of polygyny (where a single male has more than one female mate) in the Bornean white-bearded gibbon (Hylobates albibarbis). In July 2014, an adult female yet to have emigrated from her natal group gave birth to an infant, bringing the total group size to six individuals (one adult male, two adult females, one subadult female, and two infant females). Forty months later in November 2017, the same female gave birth to a second infant. Between July 2014 and April 2018, the two breeding females within the group remained mutually tolerant of each other, often singing the characteristic female vocalisation, the great call, in unison, until the eldest adult female dispersed in November 2018. We explore possible reasons behind this group’s mating system flexibility by examining dispersal limitation due to environmental constraints, factors associated with a large home range size, mutual tolerance between females, and a lack of mating opportunities.