Navigation Links
Competition between females leads to infanticide in some primates

An international team of scientists, with Spanish participation, has shed light on cannibalism and infanticide carried out by primates, documenting these acts for the first time in the moustached tamarin (Saguinus mystax). The mothers, which cannot raise their infants without help from male group members, commit infanticide in order to prevent the subsequent death of their offspring if they are stressed and in competition with other females.

"Infanticide is an extreme behaviour, and in most species is used by males to eliminate competitors and make females become sexually receptive more quickly", Yvan Lledo-Ferrer, one of the authors of this study and a researcher in the Psychobiology Department at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM) and at the German Primate Centre, tells SINC.

However, in callithrix primates (the primate family that Saguinus mystax belongs to), it is the females that perpetrate infanticide. "Genetic analysis enabled us to show that the mothers themselves take the lives of their own offspring", says Lledo-Ferrer.

The study, which has been published in the journal Primates, observed three different groups of moustached tamarins in the Peruvian forest from 1999 to 2008 in order to determine how help from male members of the group and the absence of competition between females helped to ensure the survival of infants.

The results show that 75% of infants survive when at least three males are helping, but only 41.7% survive if the group has one or two male helpers. With regard to competition with other females, 80% of infants die at less than three months of age if there are two gestating females in the group. This figure falls to 20% if there is only one reproductive female.

Unexpected observations

The scientists were surprised when four infants died within the space of a year and the autopsies carried out did not reveal any pathology that would have compromised their survival. In only one of the unexpectedly observed deaths did the mother kill her own offspring. The rest died "without any help".

"Normally, if infants fall to the forest floor from a height, the group keeps picking it up until the infant no longer has the strength to hold on to its carrier's back. At that point they abandon it on the ground. However, in one of these cases the mother killed her own offspring without it having followed the normal pattern of falling to the ground", the expert explains.

The researchers say that reproductive dominance is not well established in cases where infanticide takes place, and there is competition between females to occupy the dominant position. "This competition leads to high levels of prenatal stress, which can affect the foetus and therefore the viability of the offspring and the mother's milk production", the Spanish scientist points out.

Mothers kill infants that have poor prospects for survival due to the social make-up of the group (low number of helpers and the presence of another gestating female). In the cases observed, "the mother consumed her offspring's brain, thereby obtaining a high-quality supplementary source of nutrients, which somewhat offsets those invested during gestation", says Lledo-Ferrer.

One of the explanations for these acts is that the callithrix are a very unusual kind of primate. They have a cooperative baby care system, in which all the members of the group participate, and raising infants is an "extremely" costly activity the whole group must work together in order to for it to be successful.

In this family of primates, only one female can successfully reproduce in each group, while the rest inhibit their ovulation. They have a six-month gestation period.


Contact: SINC Team
FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology

Related biology news :

1. Gold nanostars outshine the competition
2. Collegiate Inventors Competition recognizes top student inventors
3. Gender biases in leadership selection during competitions within and between groups
4. Study shows competition, not climate change, led to Neanderthal extinction
5. NTU undergrad is first Singapore champion of an internationally acclaimed engineering competition
6. Leading research agencies announce new international competition: "The digging into data challenge"
7. WWF seeks innovative solutions to bycatch through worldwide competition
8. New York, Florida schools win awards at national student competition
9. Fertilization intensifies competition for light and endangers plant diversity
10. Parascript Technology Wins Online Signature Verification Competition
11. Plants prefer their kin, but crowd out competition when sharing a pot with strangers
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Competition between females leads to infanticide in some primates
(Date:4/11/2017)... 11, 2017 Research and Markets has announced ... report to their offering. ... global eye tracking market to grow at a CAGR of 30.37% ... Tracking Market 2017-2021, has been prepared based on an in-depth market ... landscape and its growth prospects over the coming years. The report ...
(Date:4/11/2017)... , April 11, 2017 NXT-ID, Inc. ... technology company, announces the appointment of independent Directors Mr. ... to its Board of Directors, furthering the company,s corporate governance ... Gino ... we look forward to their guidance and benefiting from their ...
(Date:4/5/2017)... , April 5, 2017  The Allen Institute ... Allen Cell Explorer: a one-of-a-kind portal and dynamic digital ... 3D imaging data, the first application of deep learning ... human stem cell lines and a growing suite of ... platform for these and future publicly available resources created ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... The Blavatnik ... Winners and six Finalists of the 2017 Blavatnik Regional Awards for Young Scientists. ... Foundation and administered by the New York Academy of Sciences to honor the ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... SARASOTA, FL (PRWEB) , ... ... ... Inc. (RPS®) today announces publication of a United States multicenter, prospective clinical ... single use, disposable, point-of-care diagnostic test capable of identifying clinically significant acute ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... AMRI, a global contract research, ... improve patient outcomes and quality of life, will now be offering its impurity ... to new regulatory requirements for all new drug products, including the finalization of ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... 11, 2017 , ... At its national board meeting in ... Sheikh, the co-founder, CEO and chief research scientist of Minnesota-based Advanced Space Technology ... in ARCS Alumni Hall of Fame . ASTER Labs is a technology ...
Breaking Biology Technology: