Lucie Rigaill

Program-Specific Assistant Professor

Social Systems Evolution


Research summary

My research focuses on investigating the forms, functions, and evolution of primate multimodal sexual communication to better understand how multiple sensory channels may signal female reproductive status and individual characteristics and thus modulate male and female mating strategies (from signal content to signal perception). While my previous work has taken me to mainly study non-human primates, I am conducting my current project on human sexual communication. This research aims at unveiling whether humans share with some non-human primates a colorful trait of fertility.

Key words

  • Behavioral and Sensory Ecology
  • Animal reproduction
  • Sexual communication
  • Multimodal and multicomponent signals
  • Female traits

Multimodal sexual communication in primates

Reproduction is a crucial activity for animals which directly modulate individual’s fitness and therefore the survival of a group, a population, and to a larger scale to a species. However, reproduction imposes costs on individual, due to the investment of energetic resources into mating and reproduction (gamete production, maternal care) and to the physical costs of mating (sexual harassment, intra-sexual competition). It has been suggested sexual communication have evolved to accomplish reproduction efficiently. Sexual communication includes selection on females to signal their reproductive state or condition, and on males to discriminate that state, so as not to waste energy on non-reproductive mating. While female primates can display multiple information through multiple sensory channels (behavioral, auditory, visual, and olfactory communications) most studies still focus on investigating the potential function (signal content) of one or few traits. Therefore, my work aims at conducting comparative studies to investigate the forms (traits and channels involved) and functions (signaling and perceiving intra-cycle, inter-cycle, and inter-individual variations) of the sexual communication of various primate species to better understand how social and environmental constraints have modulated the evolution of primate sexual communication and mating strategies. This collaborative research involved researchers from Japan (KUPRI), France (CNRS Musée de l’Homme), UK (Durham and Wolverhampton Universities), and USA (New-York University).


  • 2013-17    Doctoral Course in Primatology “Multimodal sexual signaling and mating strategies in Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)” Primate Research Institute, Kyoto University, Japan
  • 2011           M.Sc. in Physical Anthropology “Sexual signaling and mating behavior in olive baboons (Papio anubis)” University of Aix-Marseille 2, France
  • 2009          B.Sc. in Cellular Biology and Physiology University of Paris 7, France

Current Projects

My current project further explores the evolution of female colorful traits of fertility among primates. Across human cultures, red is steadily associated to love and fertility. Although probably reinforced by social learning, there is evidence that the link between red and fertility is not a product of societal conditioning alone and may have roots in human biological heritage. Thus, my project aims to determine whether women share with female primates a visual trait of their reproductive status. Especially, my research focuses on the role of lips coloration as a potential signal of ovulation: from signal content (Does variation in lips coloration across the menstrual cycle reflect ovulation probability?) to signal perception (Is intra-cycle variation in lips coloration perceptible to men and women?). This project is currently funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Research Activity start-up from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) (Kakenhi project 18H05810).

Selected Publications

L Rigaill, N Suda-Hashimoto, L Ducroix, K Mouri, T Furuichi, C Garcia (2017) Testing the role of female urine on male sexual behaviors in captive Japanese macaques. International Journal of Primatology 38(5):823-837 DOI:10.1007/s10764-017-9980-y

L Rigaill, AJJ MacIntosh, JP Higham, S Winters, K Shimizu, K Mouri, T Suzumura, T Furuichi, C Garcia (2017) Testing for links between face color and age, dominance status, parity, weight and intestinal nematode infection in female Japanese macaques. Primates 58(1):83-91. DOI:10.1007/s10329-016-0575-6

C Garcia, F Bercovitch, T Furuichi, MA Huffman, AJJ Macintosh, L Rigaill, RSC Takeshita, K Shimizu (2016) Ten years of collaboration between France and Japan-Studies on reproduction in Japanese macaques. Revue de Primatologie 7 (online). DOI:10.4000/primatologie.2666

L Rigaill, AJJ MacIntosh, JP Higham, S Winters, K Shimizu, K Mouri, T Furuichi, C Garcia (2015) Multimodal advertisement of pregnancy in free-ranging female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). PLoS ONE 10(8): e0135127. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0135127

L Rigaill (2014) Multimodal ovulatory signaling in human and non-human primates. Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d’Anthropologie de Paris 26 (2-3):161-165 DOI:10.1007/s13219-014-0108-z

RSC Takeshita, FB Bercovitch, MA Huffman, K Mouri, C Garcia, L Rigaill, K Shimizu (2014) Environmental, biological, and social factors influencing fecal adrenal steroid concentrations in female Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata). American Journal of Primatology 76 (11), 1084-1093. DOI: 10.1002/ajp.22295

L Rigaill, JP Higham, PC Lee, A Blin, C Garcia (2013) Multimodal sexual signaling and mating behavior in olive baboons (Papio anubis). American Journal of Primatology 75 (7):774–787. DOI:10.1002/ajp.22154


Social Systems Evolution Section

Kyoto University Primate Research Institute, 41-2 Kanrin, Inuyama, Aichi Japan 484-8506

Research Gate: Lucie Rigaill