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Sex Differences in Rhesus Monkeys' Digit Ratio (2D:4D Ratio) and Its Association With Maternal Social Dominance Rank.

  • Author(s): Baxter, Alexander;
  • Wood, Elizabeth K;
  • Jarman, Parker;
  • Cameron, Ashley N;
  • Capitanio, John P;
  • Higley, J Dee
  • et al.
Abstract

Prenatal androgen exposure (PAE) plays a pivotal role in masculinizing the developing body and brain, and extreme exposure may contribute to autism, anxiety disorder and schizophrenia. One commonly used biomarker for PAE is the pointer-to-ring-finger digit length (2D:4D) ratio. Although this biomarker is widely used in human studies, relatively few studies have investigated 2D:4D ratio in nonhuman primates, particularly rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), one of the most commonly used animals in biomedical research. Thus far, data suggest that sexual dimorphism in 2D:4D ratio may be in the opposite direction in some monkey species, when compared to the pattern exhibited by humans and great apes. Using a large sample size, we investigated whether rhesus monkeys' 2D:4D ratio shows the same sex-differentiated pattern present in other Old World monkey species. We also investigated whether individual differences in 2D:4D ratio are associated with the social dominance rank of subjects' mothers during pregnancy, and the social dominance rank the subjects attained as adults. Subjects were 335 rhesus monkeys between 3 years and 24 years of age (M = 6.6). Maternal dominance rank during pregnancy and subjects' adult dominance rank were categorized into tertiles (high, middle and low). Results showed that, across both hands, male rhesus monkeys exhibited higher 2D:4D ratio than females, a pattern consistent with other monkey species and a reversal from the pattern typically observed in humans and apes. This sex difference was modulated by maternal dominance rank, with female offspring of high-ranking and middle-ranking mothers exhibiting masculinized 2D:4D ratio, indicating that maternal dominance rank during pregnancy may influence levels of PAE. There was no association between subjects' 2D:4D ratio and the social dominance rank they attained as adults. These findings show a consistent sex difference in Old World monkeys' 2D:4D ratio that diverges from the pattern observed in apes and humans, and suggest maternal social dominance rank modulates PAE in rhesus monkeys.

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