Red facial coloration is an important social cue in many primate species, including humans. In such species, the vasodilatory effects of estradiol may cause red facial coloration to change systematically during females' ovarian cycle. Although increased red facial coloration during estrus has been observed in female mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx) and rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), evidence linking primate facial color changes directly to changes in measured estradiol is lacking. Addressing this issue, we used a longitudinal design to demonstrate that red facial coloration tracks within-subject changes in women’s estradiol, but not within-subject changes in women’s progesterone or estradiol-to-progesterone ratio. Moreover, the relationship between estradiol and facial redness was observed in two independent samples of women (N=50 and N=65). Our results suggest that changes in facial coloration may provide cues of women's fertility and present the first evidence for a direct link between estradiol and female facial redness in a primate species.
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