CZAAWE Resource Article

Effects of aggressive temperament on endogenous oxytocin levels in adult titi monkeys
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
American Journal of Primatology
Coordination of oxytocin (OT) activity and partner interactions is important for the facilitation and maintenance of monogamous pair bonds. We used coppery titi monkeys (Callicebus cupreus) to identify the effects of male aggressive temperament on OT activity, affiliative partner-directed behaviors, aggressive partner-directed behaviors, anxiety-related behaviors, and hormone-behavior interactions. We used a mirror technique, simulating an intruder in the home territory of pairs to elicit behavioral responses, and quantified behaviors using an established ethogram. Plasma concentrations of OT (pg/ml) were quantified using enzyme immunoassay. We used general linear mixed models to predict 1) percent change in OT as a function of aggression score, and 2) percent change in behaviors as a function of aggression, OT, and OT by aggression interactions. High-aggressive males exhibited a significant drop in OT concentration relative to control when exposed to the front of the mirror (β = −0.22, SE = 0.10, t = −2.20, p = 0.04). High-aggressive males spent significantly less time in contact with their mates (β = −1.35, SE = 0.60, t = −2.26, p = 0.04) and lip-smacked less (β = −1.02, SE = 0.44, t = −2.32, p = 0.03) relative to control. We also saw a trend toward an interaction effect between OT and proximity such that High-aggressive males displaying a drop in OT exhibited a smaller percent increase in social proximity (β = 6.80, SE = 3.48, t = 1.96, p = 0.07). Males exhibiting a decrease in OT also trended toward back-arching and tail-lashing less in response to the mirror (β = 4.53, SE = 2.5, t = 1.82, p = 0.09). To our knowledge, this is the first empirical study to examine interactions between OT and temperament in adult monogamous primates. Future studies should incorporate measures of pair-mate interactions and early-life experience to further understand variation in responses to social stressors and their effects on pair bonding.