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Looking into each other's eyes makes it better: eye-to-eye contact enhances sexual interactions in wild geladas

Abstract : In human and nonhuman primates eye-to-eye contact (EEC), a face-to-face communication component, can promote emotional/attentional engagement and prolong affiliative interactions. Owing to its direct impact on fitness, the reproductive context is perhaps the most critical context for investigating EEC's importance. However, the presence of this phenomenon around mating and its functions in primates is still understudied. In this work, we investigated whether EEC was present during copulations and influenced the copula duration and postcopulation grooming occurrence in the wild gelada, Theropithecus gelada, an Old World monkey species. We found that the previous presence of the male ‘look-at’ triggered the female ‘look-at’. Moreover, copulations were most likely to last longer in the presence of EEC. In addition, the occurrence of postcopulation grooming between partners, most frequently initiated by females, increased when copulations included EEC. Females' engagement in EEC with the male may be a form of continuation of female precopulatory proceptivity and facilitate males' copulatory activity. By prolonging sexual contacts, EEC may also increase the chances of ejaculation. By grooming their partners after mating, female geladas may attempt to reduce male arousal and prolong the social interaction with them, possibly strengthening their social bond. These results provide the first quantitative evidence that EEC is an effective mechanism for prolonging mating interactions and enhancing postmating affiliation in a Papionini species. On a broader perspective, the presence of EEC in an Old World monkey species suggests that EEC may have been favoured by natural selection to promote reproductive advantages during human evolution.
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https://hal-univ-rennes1.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-03264410
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Submitted on : Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 12:02:31 PM
Last modification on : Friday, July 2, 2021 - 9:25:04 AM

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Anna Zanoli, Marco Gamba, Alban Lemasson, Elisabetta Palagi, Ivan Norscia. Looking into each other's eyes makes it better: eye-to-eye contact enhances sexual interactions in wild geladas. Animal Behaviour, Elsevier Masson, 2021, 177, pp.269-276. ⟨10.1016/j.anbehav.2021.05.011⟩. ⟨hal-03264410⟩

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