Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 65, Issue 8, pp 1535–1547

Male takeover, infanticide, and female countertactics in white-headed leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus leucocephalus)

Original Paper


Infanticide by males is common in mammalian species such as primates in which lactation lasts much longer than gestation. It frequently occurs in one-male groups following male takeovers and is likely a male reproductive strategy. Reported female countertactics include abrupt weaning of infants, dispersal, or paternity confusion. Here, we estimated costs of female countertactics in terms of weaning ages and interbirth intervals. We observed a population of white-headed leaf monkeys (Trachypithecus leucocephalus) in Nongguan Nature Reserve, China (1995–2006) mainly composed of one-male groups. Takeovers (N = 11) coincided with the peak conception period. Detailed data are presented for five takeovers (34 females, 29 infants, and 47 group-years) leading to six infant disappearances (42.9% of infant mortality). All presumed infanticides were in accordance with the sexual selection hypothesis. Following a takeover, females without infants or with old infants stayed with the new males, incurring no or low costs (via abrupt weaning). Females with young infants dispersing with the old males also experienced low costs. High costs (due to infant loss) were incurred by pregnant females and those with young infants who stayed with the new males indicating that paternity was not confused. Costs in terms of long interbirth intervals were also high for females leaving with the old males to later join the new males, despite infant survival. Female countertactics reflected female philopatry mediated by infant age. Presumably due to the seasonal timing of takeovers, most countertactics seemed successful given that 32.3% of females apparently incurred no costs and 41.2% incurred only low costs.


Female philopatry Infant loss Interbirth interval Seasonal breeding Weaning age 


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© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Life SciencePeking UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of MathematicsThe University of ToledoToledoUSA

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