Costs and benefits of allomothering in wild capped langurs (Presbytis pileata)

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Data from a 15-month field study of the capped langur monkey, Presbytis pileata, in Bangladesh indicate that allomothering behavior is restricted to particular female-infant dyads. Primary allomothers were all parous adult females; nulliparous females rarely allo-mothered, Newborn infants were transferred from the mother to other females within a short time of birth, as reported for some other colobine species, but over the first 3 months of life each neonate's contact with nonmothers was largely restricted to a single allomother in each of five study groups. Capped langur mothers with newborn infants spent more time feeding when the infant was being allomothered than when it was in the mother's care. The model of allomothering as a selfish behavior by nulliparous or pregnant females used to enhance maternal skills at the expense of mothers is not supported by this study. Rather, allomothering may have adaptive significance as altruistic behavior among group females, in that it enables lactating females to increase feeding time. Capped langur allomothering is best interpreted as a low-cost behavior that can benefit recipients that may or may not be related.

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  • Craig B. Stanford

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