Testosterone plays an important role in mediating male reproductive trade-offs in many vertebrate species, augmenting muscle and influencing behavior necessary for male-male competition and mating-effort. Among humans, testosterone may also play a key role in facilitating male provisioning of offspring as muscular and neuromuscular performance are deeply influenced by acute changes in testosterone. This study examines acute changes in salivary testosterone among 63 Tsimane men ranging in age from 16–80 (mean 38.2) years during one-hour bouts of treechopping while clearing horticultural plots. The Tsimane forager-horticulturalists living in the Bolivian Amazon experience high energy expenditure associated with food production, have high levels of parasites and pathogens, and display significantly lower baseline salivary testosterone than age-matched US males. Mixed-effects models controlling for BMI and time of specimen collection reveal increased salivary testosterone (p<0.001) equivalent to a 48.6% rise, after one hour of tree chopping. Age had no effect on baseline (p=0.656) or change in testosterone (p=0.530); self-reported illness did not modify testosterone change (p=0.488). A comparison of these results to the relative change in testosterone during a competitive soccer tournament in the same population reveals larger relative changes in testosterone following resource production (tree chopping), compared to competition (soccer). These findings highlight the importance of moving beyond a unidimensional focus on changes in testosterone and male-male aggression to investigate the importance of testosterone-behavior interactions across additional male fitness-related activities. Acutely increased testosterone during muscularly intensive horticultural food production may facilitate male productivity and provisioning.
Trumble, B. C., Cummings, D. K., O'Connor, K. A., Holman, D. J., Smith, E. A., Kaplan, H. S., & Gurven, M. D. (2013). Age-independent increases in male salivary testosterone during horticultural activity among Tsimane forager-farmers. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34(5). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.06.002
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