Observations of a daytime birthing event in wild titi monkeys (Callicebus oenanthe): implications of the male parental role


Behaviors displayed during birth events, including prenatal, parturition, and postpartum periods, can give insight into caretaking roles in species in which the offspring is cared for by individuals other than the mother. Titi monkeys, genus Callicebus, exhibit a pair-bonded social system along with intense male care of offspring. Here, I report the first case of a birth seen in the wild in a group of Callicebus oenanthe, a little-known species in northern Peru, and describe infant care and development during the first few months after birth. Detailed behavior during the birth sequence as well as ad libitum data postpartum were recorded on nursing and infant care behaviors, including infant carrying, infant grooming, anogenital cleaning, protection, playing, and food sharing. In the 3 h preceding and during parturition, the male remained in contact with or in close proximity to the female (<1 m). The male licked and examined the newborn 3 min after parturition, carried the infant within 24 h after birth, was the main carrier of the infant, and was the predominant manual groomer of the infant during the first 4 months after birth. I argue that the male plays an integral role during the birth in order to establish his bond with the infant as well as reinforce infant care duties to the female and in predator vigilance. In light of various explanations for the exhibition of intense paternal care, I suggest that the male titi monkey provides infant care to release the female of these duties in order that she may spend more time foraging, thus potentially increasing the pair’s overall reproductive output.

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This study was generously funded with grants from the Margot Marsh Biodiversity Foundation, the Lincoln Park Zoo Neotropical Field Research Grant, Primate Conservation, Inc., and the Fulbright Association. My sincere gratitude goes to my field assistant Rosse Mary Vásquez Ríos, who assisted me in filming and recording of this unique event. I sincerely appreciate the hospitality of the inhabitants of Moyobamba and surrounding areas. This study complied with protocols approved by INRENA (the National Institute of Natural Resources of the Republic of Peru) in accordance with Peruvian law. I would also like to thank Dr. Maren Huck, Dr. Eckhard Heymann, and one anonymous reviewer for their insightful comments on this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Anneke M. DeLuycker.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material; a 2-min video of the birth event, edited to highlight female contractions and parturition of neonate. The adult male appears in the video at 1:00 min, and can be seen touching and inspecting the newborn. Video was taken with a hand-held Sony Digital 8 Handycam DCR-TRV330. (Video by A. DeLuycker and R. Vásquez Ríos).

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 15,900 kb)

Supplementary material 1 (MPG 15,900 kb)

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DeLuycker, A.M. Observations of a daytime birthing event in wild titi monkeys (Callicebus oenanthe): implications of the male parental role. Primates 55, 59–67 (2014) doi:10.1007/s10329-013-0368-0

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  • Paternal care
  • Pair-bonded
  • Infant care
  • Allocare
  • Nursing
  • Parturition
  • Perinatal