Parental reactions to a dying marmoset infant: conditional investment by the mother, but not the father

In: Behaviour
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  • 1 Evolutionary Cognition Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland
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The reproductive costs of cooperatively breeding callitrichid mothers are remarkable, and they have to rely on fathers and other group members to raise their offspring. Consequently, maternal responsiveness to and investment in infants tends to be conditional, and especially sensitive to infant cues and signals of vigour. Since fathers do not bear the same excessive reproductive costs, their threshold to invest in a dying immature may be lower than in mothers. We present an anecdotal report of reactions of a first-time breeding pair of captive common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) to their dying infant. We found a male bias in all interactions with the dying infant that did not show typical cues of infant vigour. These results show that the dying infant elicited more investment by the father than the mother. Because of this conditional maternal investment, infants of cooperatively breeding primates may be under selection to advertise their viability, in particular to their mothers.

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