Why do primates carry dead babies?

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Sometimes when Apes Also monkey Infants die, and mothers maintain and retain small corpses for days, weeks, and months, even if the baby’s body rots or mummies. New research has found that the dire behavior is more widespread than previously thought.

Researchers recently conducted the first analysis comparing more than 400 recorded cases of primate mothers interacting with dead babies, from more than a century of observations of 50 primate species. Was collected. Scientists then created “the largest database of primate mothers’ reactions to infant death,” they wrote in a new study.

They also found that factors such as the age of the mother and baby, and the sudden death of the adolescent, could shape the mother’s behavior towards the baby after the baby died.

Related: Photo: Macaque’s mother takes care of her daughter’s mummified corpse

Scientists have published descriptions of infant carcasses in primates since the early 20th century. One of the first accounts dates back to 1915, Animal Behavior JournalElisa Fernández-Fueyo, Primatologist and Graduate Student of the Faculty of Anthropology, University College London (UCL), UK, said.

In a 1915 study, primatologist and psychologist Robert Yerkes “reported the case of a captive rhesus monkey mother carrying a dead baby for five weeks.” I emailed Live Science.

For new research, the authors are monkeys, apes, galagos, and Lemur It tended to be their deceased youth. About 80% of the species they reviewed acted to carry corpses. However, this activity was most often reported in apes (our closest primate relatives) and Old World monkeys. Both of these primate groups “carry babies for the longest time after death,” Fernandez Fueyo said.

For example, in March 2020, researchers described 12 cases of wild baboon mothers carrying babies that had died for 10 days. Female macaques (former world monkey genus) inhabiting Italian wildlife parks in 2017 Carried her dead toddler For four weeks, I finally cannibalized the mummified corpse. And in 2003, after two infant chimpanzees died of respiratory illness, the mother carried the baby’s corpse for several months. Live science previously reported..

Express sadness

Lemurs, which diverged from other primate groups more than 60 million years ago, were an exception to the new analysis and did not carry dead babies, Fernandez Fueyo said. However, Lemuriformes’ mother “has been found to express grief through other behaviors, such as returning to the corpse and contacting the mother and baby,” Fernandez Fueyo said.

Species that hesitate to give up a dead baby can carry the corpse because the cause of death of the baby is invisible (for example, if the baby dies of illness rather than trauma). Studies have shown that mothers are younger and have less experience of direct death than older women.

And the length of time the woman carried the corpse may indicate the strength of the emotional connection between the mother and the baby, the authors suggested.

“It is known that the bond between mother and child is regulated by the emotions of the primate. For example, when the mother separates from the living baby, the mother becomes anxious,” Fernandez Fueyo said. In other words, separation anxiety can trigger the delivery of infant corpses in primates, explaining why very young, non-weaned babies’ corpses were usually carried longer than older babies. Scientists reported.

In fact, some primate mothers who carry dead babies may warn them if they lose or are robbed of their bodies. “It suggests that carrying a corpse may be a way to deal with the associated stress, with losses,” he said. “To further understand this and that death-related primate behavior can be explained not only by bonds, but also by related emotions, and thus resembles human grief. I need a lot of data. “

The findings were published in the journal on September 15th. Bulletin of the Royal Society B: Biological Science..

Originally published in Live Science.

Why do primates carry dead babies?

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