Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Baboon Dads Have Surprising Influence On Daughters' Fitness

Date:
February 7, 2008
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
Polygamous baboon fathers get more grandchildren if they spend a little time with their children during their juvenile years, according to new research. The findings, in well-studied social groupings of yellow baboons living at the foot of Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro, were unexpected in "multi-male" animal societies where both genders have multiple partners and mature males were thought to focus their energies almost solely on mating.

Baboon family mingles at Kenyan study site.
Credit: Susan Alberts

Polygamous baboon fathers get more grandchildren if they spend a little time with their children during their juvenile years, according to research directed by scientists at Duke and Princeton universities.

Related Articles


The findings, in well-studied social groupings of yellow baboons living at the foot of Africa's Mt. Kilimanjaro, were unexpected in "multi-male" animal societies where both genders have multiple partners and mature males were thought to focus their energies almost solely on mating.

"In such societies, the scientific dogma has very much been that males do not contribute to their offspring's fitness," said Susan Alberts, a Duke associate professor of biology. "They're not supposed to be engaged in a level of care that would make any difference."

Scientists have long known that mothers have major effects on daughters' fitness in these kinds of animal societies. But dads have previously been invisible in the fitness stories because paternity information was unavailable until recent genetic research was included in a few studies such as this one.

In a report appearing in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) on Feb. 4, 2008, Alberts and her colleagues found that the more time fathers spent living with their young daughters, the earlier the daughters reached menarche, the onset of menstruation.

"A female who can start earlier has a longer reproductive life," said Alberts, the report's senior author. "So starting out early is good."

Alberts' post-doctoral associate Marie Carpentier -- the first author -- and Jeanne Altmann of Princeton -- the corresponding author -- collaborated with her at a research site in Kenya's Amboseli basin, where the wild baboon population has been under meticulous observation since 1971.

Their new study, funded by the National Science Foundation in the United States and a Marie-Curie Outgoing Fellowship in France, follows up on a previous report by Altmann, Alberts and others in the Sept. 11, 2003, edition of the research journal Nature.

That Nature report described evidence that yellow baboon males at the Amboseli site could recognize their own offspring and also exhibit paternal care by supporting their own sons and daughters in disputes with other juveniles.

The 2008 PNAS report, also co-authored by Russ van Horn of the Zoological Society of San Diego, used 30 years of field observations and genetic data on 118 youthful yellow baboons and their known fathers to assess how paternal presence affected offspring fitness.

As the most easily accessible measure of long-term fitness, the researchers investigated how soon a father's offspring reached sexual maturity.

After separating-out confounding factors -- such as the natural fitness advantages children of high ranking mothers gain in matriarchal baboon societies -- the authors found that fatherly presence itself gives offspring a jump-start on reproduction -- most strikingly among females.

The authors added that "sons also experienced accelerated maturation if their father was present during their immature period, but only if their father was high-ranking at the time of their birth."

They acknowledged that the finding for sons was a "puzzle." However, one likely answer lies in the difference in size and dominance of adult male and female baboons. While mature males dominate females, being twice as large, "it's a matriarchal society in the sense that females are the stable members of social groups and their daughters remain with them," Alberts said.

"For young females, because their major opponents in life are adult females and fellow juveniles, the presence of any adult male may be helpful," she said.

"But for maturing sons, it may be that it's not really the females they're dealing with; it's the adult males they have to worry about. And in that case, only the presence of a high-ranking dad would be helpful."

The researchers were able to assess adult male pecking orders by looking for gestures of dominance or submission.

Baboons of either gender do not share food after their mothers cease nursing. "But ties between fatherly presence and early maturity may still stem from enhanced nutrition if fathers reduce any harassment their offspring experience while gathering food," she added. "It may also help reduce the stress of everyday life in a baboon group."

The paternal assistance her research group documented in yellow baboons may also be at work in other types of monkeys, she added. "I think our data make a strong case that should be looked at," she said.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Baboon Dads Have Surprising Influence On Daughters' Fitness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204172226.htm>.
Duke University. (2008, February 7). Baboon Dads Have Surprising Influence On Daughters' Fitness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204172226.htm
Duke University. "Baboon Dads Have Surprising Influence On Daughters' Fitness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080204172226.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Existing Chemical Compounds Could Revive Failing Antibiotics, Says Danish Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) A team of scientists led by Danish chemist Jorn Christensen says they have isolated two chemical compounds within an existing antipsychotic medication that could be used to help a range of failing antibiotics work against killer bacterial infections, such as Tuberculosis. Jim Drury went to meet him. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins