Monkeys Wash In Own Urine To Attract Females, Study Finds

03/01/2011 04:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It would certainly seem a strange sight to see a monkey rub its own urine into its fur, but scientists now think they know the motive behind the odd behavior. According to a recent study, male capuchin monkeys wash in their own urine to signal their sexual status to females.

The study, published in the American Journal of Primatology and reported by the BBC, was based on the observation that many male New World monkeys urinate on their hands and then rub the urine onto their bodies. Trinity University's Dr. Kimberley Phillips began her research to understand why male monkeys increase their rate of urine-washing when solicited by females.

Phillips found that female brains become more active when they smell adult male urine as opposed to juvenile urine. Adult males excrete higher concentrations of testosterone in their urine. Higher concentrations of this sex hormone are not only linked to sexual maturity, but also social status. Thus, Phillips believes that males wash in urine "as a form of communication to convey social and or sexual status."

This isn't the only unusual monkey discovery this month. A few weeks ago, researchers found that Old World monkeys are capable of self-doubt, and can recognize their ability to think. Capuchins did not demonstrate this ability in the study. Perhaps if they could second-guess themselves, they would think twice before showering in their own urine...

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