Skin temperature and reproductive condition in wild female chimpanzees

Guillaume Dezecache, Claudia Wilke, Nathalie Richi, Christof Neumann, Klaus Zuberbuhler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Infrared thermal imaging has emerged as a valuable tool in veterinary medicine, in particular for evaluating reproductive processes. Here, we explored differences in skin temperature of twenty female chimpanzees in Budongo Forest, Uganda, four of which were pregnant during data collection. Based on previous literature in other mammals, we predicted increased skin temperature of maximally swollen reproductive organs of nonpregnant females when approaching peak fertility. For pregnant females, we made the same prediction because it has been argued that female chimpanzees have evolved mechanisms to conceal pregnancy, including swellings of the reproductive organs, conspicuous copulation calling, and solicitation of male mating behaviour, to decrease the infanticidal tendencies of resident males by confusing paternity. For non-pregnant females, we found slight temperature increases towards the end of the swelling cycles but no significant change between the fertile and non-fertile phases. Despite their different reproductive state, pregnant females had very similar skin temperature patterns compared to non-pregnant females, suggesting little potential for males to use skin temperature to recognise pregnancies, especially during maximal swelling, when ovulation is most likely to occur in non-pregnant females. We discuss this pattern in light of the concealment hypothesis, i.e., that female chimpanzees have evolved physiological means to conceal their reproductive state during pregnancy
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4116
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2017


  • Infra-red thermography
  • Skin temperature
  • Wild chimpanzees
  • Pregnancy


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