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Keywords:

  • mother–infant bond;
  • response to death;
  • thanatology;
  • learning;
  • social relationships;
  • Pan troglodytes

Abstract

The mother–offspring bond is one of the strongest and most essential social bonds. Following is a detailed behavioral report of a female chimpanzee 2 days after her 16-month-old infant died, on the first day that the mother is observed to create distance between her and the corpse. A series of repeated approaches and retreats to and from the body are documented, along with detailed accounts of behaviors directed toward the dead infant by the mother and other group members. The behavior of the mother toward her dead infant not only highlights the maternal contribution to the mother–infant relationship but also elucidates the opportunities chimpanzees have to learn about the sensory cues associated with death, and the implications of death for the social environment. Am. J. Primatol. 73:415–421, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.