, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp 105-124

Reproductive senescence and terminal investment in female Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) at Salem

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Abstract

The reproductive history of 207 female Barbary macaques, living in a large outdoor enclosure in Southwest Germany, was studied during an 11-year period. The results yielded a significant relationship between female age and fecundity, with fertility rates lower than expected among young and old females. Analysis of the reproductive history of individual females revealed a significant decline in fertility from prime age (7–12 years) to mid age (13–19 years), and from mid age to old age (20–25 years). The proportion of long interbirth intervals increased steadily among aging females. Infant survival was not significantly related to maternal age, but offspring of old females showed the highest survivorship. Behavioral observations revealed that old mothers weaned their offspring significantly later than younger mothers, suggesting that prolongation of interbirth intervals is due not only to deteriorating physical condition but also to increased maternal investment, as life history theory predicts. Reproduction ceased during the middle of the third decade of life. Final cessation of estrous cycling invariably occurred 3 or 4 years after the birth of the last offspring, but a postreproductive life span of ≥5 years appears to be common in this population. Available data suggest that reproductive senescence and menopause are more common among nonhuman primates than widely believed and that both traits are part of an adaptive life history strategy.