, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 99-109

Facultative polyandry and the role of infant-carrying in wild saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis)

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Summary

Wild saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis) in southeastern Peru have a variable mating system that can differ both between territories at any one time and within territories over time. Groups are usually monogamous or cooperatively polyandrous, but are occasionally even polygynous. This study addressed the following questions: why does this population contain both monogamous and polyandrous groups simultaneously? What factors determine whether specific groups are monogamous or polyandrous? The data from this study population tentatively support the hypothesis that adults should mate monogramously only if they have nonreproductive helpers (usually older offspring) to help rear infants. Without helpers, the reproductive success of both males and females is hypothesized to be higher, on average, if they mate polyandrously than if they mate monogamously. The proposed benefits of polyandry to males and females differ quantitatively, but in both cases benefits stem from the help that males provide in rearing young. The following results support this hypothesis. (1) Lone pairs were never seen to attempt breeding, and calculations suggest that the costs of lactation and infant-carrying are too great for lone pairs to have a high probability of being able to raise twin offspring (the normal litter size). (2) Polyandrous males and nonreproductive offspring contributed substantially to infant care, particularly infant-carrying (fig. 2). (3) Adult males carried infants approximately twice as often as did lactating females, presumably because of the combined costs of (a) lactation (Fig. 3) and (b) infant-carrying (Fig. 4). The proximate causes of cooperative polyandry inS. fuscicollis appear to be different from those responsible in several bird species, showing that cooperative polyandry is a complex phenomenon.