Endocrine correlates and fitness consequences of variation in the mother -infant relationship in wild baboons (<i>Papio cynocephalus</i>) in Amboseli, Kenya

2006 2006

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Abstract (summary)

For animals, mammalian neonates are unusually dependent on their mothers for growth and survival, and a major goal of mammalian reproductive biology is to understand the causes and consequences of variation in infant caretaking behaviors among mothers. I investigated the endocrine correlates and fitness consequences of variation in the mother-infant relationship in five groups of wild baboons (Papio cynocephalus) of known demographic history and genealogical relationships in Amboseli, Kenya. I used non-invasive techniques to measure excreted steroid hormones from mothers across the perinatal period, and data from both patterns of behavior between parents, infants and other group members, and the long-term (>30 years) genetic, demographic and reproductive records for this population.

First, I show that fecal glucocorticoid levels during late pregnancy predicted maternal responsiveness to infant distress cries after birth. This study provides the first evidence for the preparative actions of glucocorticoids for responding to a predictable challenge (i.e. motherhood) in a wild animal population. Second, I show that sex differences in the mother-infant relationship exist during the early postnatal period, differences that are consistent with the lives of offspring as adults. I show that mothers are more permissive of male than female infants, and that maternal dominance rank and fecal estrogen levels during late pregnancy are more predictive of the suckling behavior of female than male infants. My results suggest that the mother's social world has a greater influence on the lives of female infants, and are among the first evidence of sex differences in the mother-offspring relationship during infancy in wild primates. Third, I examine the patterning of associations between adult males and new mothers during the early postnatal period and evaluate two hypotheses for why close associations (or 'friendships') between males and females might be adaptive for each sex. I show that friendships with males provide mothers and infants protection from harassment by other females, but are not associated with risk of infanticide by other adult males. Finally, I examine the predictors of birth intervals and explore the possible proximate pathways through which suckling behavior and postpartum progesterone may mediate the effects of maternal dominance rank on birth intervals in this and other mammal populations.

Indexing (details)

Anatomy & physiology;
0472: Zoology
0433: Anatomy & physiology
0433: Animals
Identifier / keyword
Biological sciences; Baboons; Endocrine; Fitness; Kenya; Mother-infant relationship; Papio cynocephalus
Endocrine correlates and fitness consequences of variation in the mother -infant relationship in wild baboons (<i>Papio cynocephalus</i>) in Amboseli, Kenya
Nguyen, Nga
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 67/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
0542650266, 9780542650260
Altmann, Jeanne
Princeton University
University location
United States -- New Jersey
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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