, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 73-81

Infanticide in Propithecus diadema edwardsi: An Evaluation of the Sexual Selection Hypothesis

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Abstract

Infanticide might be described as a reproductive strategy employed by anthropoid primate males when they immigrate into new groups. But infanticide has rarely been observed in wild prosimian primates. For the Malagasy lemurs this may reflect one or more of the following: strict breeding seasons; relative monomorphism in canine tooth and body size; small group sizes; male–female dominance relations; and male–female dyads within groups. We addressed the following questions: Do prosimian males commit infanticide in circumstances similar to those in which anthropoids do? and Is there any reproductive advantage for a highly seasonal breeder to commit infanticide? To help answer these questions, we describe the death of a 24-hr-old infant male Propithecus diadema edwardsi from wounds received during a fight between his mother, her adult daughter, and a newly immigrant male. Interbirth intervals between surviving offspring are 2 years for Propithecus diadema edwardsi; therefore, a male could dramatically shorten the time between reproductive windows by killing an infant. Whether this tactic would be favored by sexual selection cannot be addressed until more information has been collected on the length of interbirth interval due to infanticide relative to that of infant death by other causes; how social factors such as stability of breeding relationships affect long-term male reproductive success; how effective female counterstrategies are to prevent infanticide and/or whether they choose to mate with males that commit infanticide; and how often males that kill infants subsequently sire infants, particularly in groups that contain a resident male.