February 5, 2008

Father Baboons Positively Influence Daughters’ Fitness

A report in Monday's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found female baboons that were raised with their fathers were noted to have matured earlier and experienced a longer reproductive life than other baboons.

The study looked at groups of yellow baboons living near Kenya's Mt. Kilimanjaro, where both males and females have several partners.

Susan Alberts, an associate professor of biology at Duke University said that the level of care by males had previously not been considered to have made much noticeable difference to their offspring.

The jump-start on sexual maturity seen in the groups where the father was present is an indicator of fitness, researchers 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," Alberts said in a statement.

Baboons do not share food after they cease nursing, but the presence of the father may reduce harassment of their daughters while ensuring that they have more to eat.

As for the sons, competition from food comes from other males, so the presence of the father would not be a large impacting factor, they said.

"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."

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation and a Marie Curie Outgoing Fellowship.


Photo Caption: Baboon family mingles at Kenyan study site (Credit: Susan Alberts)


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