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Fatherly attention makes baboon babies grow faster

February 5, 2008

tags: PaternalAttention InfantCare youngGrowth

Fatherly attention makes baboon babies grow faster.

Hanging out with dad brings benefits for the kids.Hanging out with dad brings benefits for the kids.

The longer a yellow baboon’s dad sticks around, the better it does, new research shows.

Jeanne Altmann of Princeton University in New Jersey and her colleagues studied yellow baboons (Papio cynocephalus ) living in Amboseli National Park in Kenya, near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. They report their results in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

It turned out that the longer a father spent in his offspring’s group, the earlier that offspring became sexually mature. Maturing early shows that a baboon is healthy and growing fast, and gives the animal’s reproductive chances a big boost.

By intervening in and generally deterring fights, a male baboon can have less stressed offspring with more time for feeding.

The bigger effect was seen with male offspring, who were only helped if they had a high-ranking father. Males are victim to more aggression, so are harder to protect, but benefit more from effective protection.

The key question, says Guy Norton of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK, who works on another long-term study of yellow baboons, based in Tanzania, is whether paternal care improves a baboon’s chances of surviving to breed.

Fewer than 10% of mammalian species have been documented exhibiting male paternal care. It’s thought that this is partly due to the difficulty a male may have in telling which offspring are his…

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