Paternal effects on offspring fitness in a multimale primate society

  • Charpentier M
  • Van Horn R
  • Altmann J
 et al. 
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When females mate with multiple males, paternal care is generally expected to be negligible, because it may be difficult or impossible for males to discriminate their own offspring from those of other males, and because engaging in paternal care may reduce male mating opportunities. Consequently, males in multimale societies are not predicted to provide direct benefits to their offspring. We have recently demonstrated, however, that males in a typical multimale primate society (yellow baboons, Papio cynocephalus) discriminate their own offspring from those of other males and provide care to them in the form of repeated support during agonistic encounters. This observation raises the question of whether fathers enhance offspring fitness in this species. Here we use 30 years of data on age at maturity for 118 yellow baboons with known fathers. We show that the father's presence in the offspring's social group during the offspring's immature period accelerated the timing of physiological maturation in daughters. Sons also experienced accelerated maturation if their father was present during their immature period, but only if the father was high ranking at the time of their birth. Because age at reproductive maturity has a large impact on lifetime reproductive success, our results indicate a direct effect of paternal presence on offspring fitness. This relationship in turn suggests that the multiple roles that males play in multimale animal societies have not been sufficiently examined or appreciated and that paternal effects may be more pervasive than previously appreciated.

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  • M. J. E. Charpentier

  • R. C. Van Horn

  • J. Altmann

  • S. C. Alberts

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