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Keywords:

  • capuchin monkeys;
  • Cebus apella nigritus;
  • infanticide;
  • sexual selection hypothesis;
  • proceptive behavior;
  • infant mortality

Abstract

We report here one observed and two potential cases of infanticide during a brief period of 1 month after a dominant male replacement in one group of black capuchin monkeys in Iguazú National Park, Argentina. We also compile infant disappearances and demographic data in seven groups followed from 1–14 years. Behavioral and molecular data showed that the probability that an infanticidal male would kill his own progeny is very low in this species. Females that lost infants less than 6 months old had shorter interbirth intervals than females whose infants survived (14.12±5.32 months, n=17 vs. 20.42±5.65 months, n=34). Females whose infants die shortly after takeovers mate with the presumed infanticidal male during the most fertile days of their subsequent estrous periods giving this male a high probability of siring the new progeny. We recorded 181 proceptive periods and 52 births from 18 adult females in two groups. Most proceptive periods were concentrated during a conception season, but there was an increase in sexual behavior after male takeovers. Seven females copulated while pregnant after the observed male takeover, an unusual behavior in this species in years of group stability. Of 24 infants born during takeover years, 62.5% did not survive the first year, whereas only 22.5% of 80 infants died in years without male replacements. We found a significant positive association between infant mortality and male takeovers, but not with food provisioning. The main cause of infant mortality in this population is associated with male takeovers. Our results suggest that infanticide can have an important effect on the behavior of this species, selecting for female behaviors that function to reduce infanticide risk. Am. J. Primatol. 70:473–484, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.