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DIFFERENTIAL EFFECTS ON BEHAVIOUR OF THE SUBCUTANEOUS AND INTRAVAGINAL ADMINISTRATION OF OESTROGEN IN THE RHESUS MONKEY (MACACA MULATTA)

R. P. MICHAEL, G. S. SAAYMAN

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SUMMARY The behavioural interactions between pairs of oppositely sexed, adult rhesus monkeys were studied during 1307 mating tests, each of 1 hr. duration. Females were ovariectomized and the effects of administering oestrogen subcutaneously, intravaginally, and directly to the sexual skin at different daily dose rates were compared. The subcutaneous route resulted in a greater enhancement of the overall sexual activity of the pair, and in a greater stimulation of the females' sexual invitations. In contrast, the intravaginal route of administration resulted in a greater stimulation of the males' sexual interest and of the males' mounting attempts: this occurred without a corresponding increase in female sexual receptivity and, in two pairs, resulted in increased aggression. It is concluded that communication between these primates was influenced by oestrogen-dependent changes in the vagina, and the findings point to the existence of a substance with a pheromone-like action.