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Keywords:

  • social behavior;
  • male-infant relationships;
  • paternalism

Abstract

The infant-directed behavior of Barbary macaque males was analyzed in order to determine whether it is essential for an infant's survival during the first year and whether males interact selectively with closely related infants. Dyadic male-infant contacts were recorded in a large group of semifree-ranging Barbary macaques. Data collected during the first 12 weeks of life on each infant born in 1983 (n = 36) were analyzed. All adult and almost all subadult males established strong relationships with at least one infant. Almost two-thirds of the infants (22) had frequent contacts with one or several males. Males showed no preference for closely related infants. Sexual associations with an infant's mother during the preceding mating season had no significant effect. Natal males did not prefer infants of their own matrilineage. There was no evidence that contacts with males had a positive influence on infant survival or that other benefits to the infants resulted from these contacts. Instead, excessive carrying by males and females led to starvation of some very young infants and was a major cause of neonatal deaths in this population. Males interacted preferentially with infants that were born early in the birth season, had a high-ranking multiparous mother, and were male. Younger males established strong relationships with male infants only, while mother's rank was more important for older males. It is suggested that certain mothers prevented early contacts between their infants and males so that the observed preferences for certain infants were also a result of easier access to them. All results suggested that males interacted with infants for their own benefit.