Circulating Hormones and Dominance Status Predict Female Behavior during Courtship in a Lekking Species. Academic Article uri icon


  • Female competitive behaviors during courtship can have substantial fitness consequences, yet we know little about the physiological and social mechanisms underlying these behaviors-particularly for females of polygynous lek mating species. We explored the hormonal and social drivers of female intersexual and intrasexual behavior during courtship by males in a captive population of Indian peafowl. We investigated whether (1) female non-stress induced circulating estradiol (E2) and corticosterone (CORT) levels or (2) female dominance status in a dyad predicts female solicitation behavior. We also tested whether female circulating E2 and CORT predict dominant females' aggressive behaviors toward subordinate females in the courtship context. Our findings demonstrate that females with higher levels of circulating E2 as well as higher levels of circulating CORT solicit more courtships from males. Dominant females also solicit more courtships from males than subordinate females. Female intrasexual aggressive behaviors during courtship, however, were not associated with circulating levels of E2 or CORT. Overall, we conclude that circulating steroid hormones in conjunction with social dominance might play a role in mediating female behaviors associated with competition for mates. Experimental manipulation and measures of hormonal flexibility throughout the breeding season in relation to competitive and sexual behaviors will be necessary to further examine the link between hormonal mechanisms and female behavior in polygynous lekking systems.

published proceedings

  • Integr Comp Biol

altmetric score

  • 4.2

author list (cited authors)

  • Earl, A. D., Kimmitt, A. A., & Yorzinski, J. L.

citation count

  • 1

complete list of authors

  • Earl, Alexis D||Kimmitt, Abigail A||Yorzinski, Jessica L

publication date

  • January 2022