Infanticide by resident males and female counter-strategies in wild Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata)
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Infanticide was observed for the first time in a wild, non-provisioned troop of Japanese macaques on Yakushima Island, Japan. Eight adult resident males attacked unweaned infants in the pre- and early mating season, and one infanticide was observed directly. These attacks were not consistent with the social pathology, side effect of male aggression, cannibalism, or the resource defense hypothesis, but were generally consistent with the sexual-selection hypothesis. First, most male attackers had risen in dominance rank because several high-ranking males had left the troop. Second, in 78% of cases, male attackers had not previously been observed to mate with the mothers of victims. Moreover, analysis of subject animal DNA showed that males did not attack their own offspring. The two mothers who lost their unweaned infants, however, were not subsequently observed to mate. In fact, almost no mating behavior was observed in the troop. This was most likely due to a poor fruiting year. Resumption of mating by females who lost their infants may have been inhibited by an intervening environmental variable which suppressed female reproductive function. These observations contribute to a growing body of evidence which suggests that sexually selected infanticide can occur in seasonally breeding, multi-male, multi-female primate groups. Female Japanese macaques are known to mate with multiple males. We found evidence that female mating with multiple males inhibits contact aggression towards their infants. Adult males attacked infants eight times more often when they had not previously mated with the mother.
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