Male Infanticide in the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), a Seasonally Breeding Primate
In nonhuman primates, infanticide by adult males can occur when the leader male is ousted from a one-male, multifemale group, or when male dominance rank changes within a multimale, multifemale group. According to the sexual selection hypothesis, this behavior may be adaptive if perpetrators increase their reproductive success by killing unrelated, unweaned infants, thus shortening the interbirth interval of the mother, and then siring her next infant. Under an alternative hypothesis, infanticide is a byproduct of aggressive male–male competition and these predictions do not hold. Direct observations of the context surrounding infanticide in free-ranging primate populations that allow a test of these predictions are rare. Here, we document four cases of male infanticide and report paternity data for a group of golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) at Shennongjia, China. Three cases of infanticide by new leader males supported the predictions of the sexual selection hypothesis, while another provides partial support for the sexual selection hypothesis, but can also be explained via a nonadaptive hypothesis. In this latter case, a male from an all-male group killed an infant during an aggressive episode that appeared to be accidental, as it took place 7 mo before a male takeover happened, and the perpetrator did not obtain any reproductive advantage. We conclude that most male infanticide events in golden snub-nosed monkeys are consistent with the adaptive selection sexual hypothesis.