Androgens and social status in female rock hyraxes

Lee Koren, Eli Geffen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Androgens have been linked to social behaviour in males across many vertebrate species. Despite the lack of gender specificity in steroid hormones, the association of androgens with behaviour in females remains obscure. We analysed steroid hormone levels in male and female rock hyraxes, Procavia capensis, and found strong ties between androgens and cortisol in females but not in males, despite the latter being the sex that usually shows this association. In the past we have shown that both female and male hyraxes have similar testosterone levels. In the present work, we found a significant interaction between testosterone levels and social status. Testosterone levels differed only between lower-ranking males and females, with females showing higher levels. Furthermore, dominant females had significantly lower testosterone levels than subordinate females. No association was detected between litter size and female rank, testosterone or cortisol levels. At this stage, we can only hypothesize that the assumed detrimental effects of high circulating androgen levels, reflected in the hair samples, influence the reproductive output or the offspring survival of subordinate females in some other ways, which require further investigation to be revealed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-238
Number of pages6
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are obliged to B. Sanzenbacher, I. Aravot and E. Tauber for their extensive help with the trapping of the hyraxes, as well as to the many project students, field guides and park rangers who helped in the field. We thank the Nature and Parks authority for their permission to work at the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and the Ein Gedi Field School for their hospitality and logistic help. We especially thank G. Koren and T. Karaskov for their help with the hormone analysis and for executing the validations. Finally, we are grateful to H. de Vries for his assistance with the rank determination, to C. K. Hemelrijk for sharing with us the Matrix Tester program, to N. Paz for editorial assistance and to three anonymous referees for constructively commenting on the manuscript. This study was supported by two grants from the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (ISF 577/99 and 488/05).


  • Procavia capensis
  • androstenedione
  • cortisol
  • hair testing
  • rock hyrax
  • sex differences
  • social status
  • testosterone


Dive into the research topics of 'Androgens and social status in female rock hyraxes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this