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Male baboons recognize and care for their own offspring

ify unambiguously the genetic offspring of a given male in such troops. Also, she said, laboratory studies attempting to show such paternal care in captive animals had not yielded such evidence.

"So, until now many researchers had been skeptical that males showed paternal behavior toward their own offspring," said Alberts. "They had increasingly concluded that these apparent paternal caring behaviors are really a mating effort; that males care for the kids as an incentive for the mother to mate with them.

"The reason that laboratory studies were not successful, we believe, is that they attempted to isolate one cue that the male used," said Alberts. "But we are led to conclude from our studies that males use multiple cues to identify their offspring -- including perhaps pheromones, physical and behavioral resemblance, or the amount of mating time with the female.

"Even humans don't just use one cue to identify their offspring," said Alberts. "We use all the information we have available to us."

According to Alberts, she and her colleagues have already launched studies to explore what pheromones or odor molecules might provide males clues to the genetic identity of offspring. They are also studying how the father-infant relationships develop -- whether they are initiated by the father or by the mother.

More broadly, she said, the researchers are exploring the "balance of costs and opportunities" that males must strike in deciding whether to remain with a troop that includes their offspring, or to strike out and join another troop. The former decision, she said, confers the advantage of protecting one's own offspring. And the latter decision creates greater risk of death during a troop transfer or battles for new mates, but potentially greater mating opportunities in a greater number of groups.

"However, a central question we want to ask next is, if males care for their offspring does it affect the offspring's survival chance?" asked
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Contact: Dennis Meredith
dennis.meredith@duke.edu
919-681-8054
Duke University
10-Sep-2003


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