Tuesday, June 15, 2010

New Study Shows Primate Papas Use Infants to Enhance Their Clout

In an article in the New York Times today Natalie Angier has a very interesting article about father-child bonds in the animal world.

The article mentions a new study in the Journal of Animal Behavior about the ways Barbary macaques parlay infant care into social clout among other males.

Angier writes:
[The authors of the study] describe how male Barbary macaques use infants as “costly social tools” for the express purpose of bonding with other males and strengthening their social clout. Want to befriend the local potentate? Bring a baby. Need to reinforce an existing male-male alliance, or repair a frayed one? Don’t forget the baby.

It doesn’t matter if the infant is yours or not. Just so long as it has the downy black fur and wrinkly pinkish face that adult male macaques find impossible to resist. “They will hold up the infant like a holy thing, nuzzling it, chattering their teeth,” Dr. Fischer said. “It can be a bit bewildering to see.”

Just in time for Father’s Day come this and other recent studies that reveal surprising, off-road or vaguely unsettling cases of Males Behaving Dadly — attending to the young with an avidity and particularity long thought to be the province of the mother.

Scientists have learned, for example, that the male pipefish — which, like his seahorse relatives, famously becomes pregnant and gives birth to live young — is both more generous and more calculatedly harsh toward his offspring than previously believed, able to fine-tune the flow of nutrients to his gestating babies depending on how he feels about their mother.
Read the entire article, Paternal Bonds, Special and Strange

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