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Animal parenting, personality and pair-ups

ans and monkeys," he said. Adolescent girls who grow up without a father at home reach puberty earlier and are more attracted to pictures of infants than girls who have a father at home, Maestripieri and his colleagues recently reported in Developmental Science.

Female rhesus monkeys exposed to harsh and unpredictable maternal care in infancy also showed earlier interest in infants as well as higher levels of stress hormones during development, Maestripieri said. These findings are due to be published in Proceedings B, a journal of the Royal Society.

When it comes to the tiny tamarin and marmoset monkeys, some females behave in ways that don't translate so directly to humans.

The socially subordinate female monkeys in these groups become infertile in response to social interactions with a dominant female, according to Wendy Saltzman of the University of California, Riverside. Instead of breeding, these females help to rear the dominant females' infants. Researchers think this hormonally-mediated change benefits the subordinate females, because even though these monkeys will not be passing along their own genes, they will be helping to rear closely related infants.

When subordinate females do breed, their infants are likely to be killed by the dominant female, Saltzman and her colleagues have found more recently. So, by switching off their fertility, subordinate females may avoid investing in infants that aren't likely to survive.

These monkeys have very specialized social structures that aren't common in humans, Saltzman explained.

"But, in humans too, there can be social influences on reproductive physiology. The exact phenomenon of social suppression of fertility doesn't map onto humans but can help us understand how human fertility can be influenced by social and psychological factors," she said.

Curiously, reproductive suppression doesn't seem to involve stress or aggression between the females, acco
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20-Feb-2005


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