, 49:271

Patterns of infant handling and relatedness in Barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) on Gibraltar

Original Article


Among papionin primates, the Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) shows the most extensive interactions between infants and group members other than the mother. Two different types of interactions occur: (1) long-lasting dyadic interactions between a handler and an infant, and (2) brief triadic interactions between two handlers involving an infant. Previous investigations showed that infant handling by males is best explained as use of infants to manage relationships with other males. In contrast, no adaptive explanation for infant handling by females emerged. Here, we compared the infant-handling pattern between subadult/adult males and subadult/adult females in a free-ranging group of 46 Barbary macaques on Gibraltar to test whether the relationship management hypothesis also applies to female handlers. We further investigated the infant-handling pattern of juveniles and used microsatellite markers to estimate relatedness between infant handlers and the infant’s mother. We found that males, females and juveniles all participated extensively in triadic interactions using infants of above-average related females. In contrast, only males and juveniles were highly involved in dyadic interactions with infants of related females, while females rarely handled infants other than their own. The pattern of infant handling was entirely compatible with the predictions of the relationship management hypothesis for males and mostly so for females. Moreover, our genetic analysis revealed that males and females differ in their partner choice: while females preferred to interact with related females, males had no significant preference to interact with related males. We further discuss the observed above-average relatedness values between infant handlers and the infant’s mother in the light of kin-selection theory.


Alloparental behaviour Barbary macaque Infant handling Microsatellites Relationship management 


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropological InstituteUniversity of ZürichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.The Field MuseumChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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