Life History and Reproductive Strategies of Khao Yai Hylobates lar: Implications for Social Evolution in Apes
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- Reichard, U.H. & Barelli, C. Int J Primatol (2008) 29: 823. doi:10.1007/s10764-008-9285-2
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Among primates, great apes have the most extended life histories and they also appear socially specialized because of their flexible association patterns and sociosexual relationships. Researchers have hypothesized that such subtle social commonalities in combination with a slow life pace lead to great apes advanced cognition. Small apes, in contrast to great apes, are commonly believed to be socially inflexible, and little comparative life history data exist for wild populations. We investigated how the small white-handed gibbon (Hylobates lar) fits into a great ape life history and sociality framework. We followed the life histories of adults in 12 groups over ca. 18 yr at Khao Yai National Park, Thailand. Results demonstrate that the life histories of white-handed gibbons closely resembled those of other apes. Mean female age at first reproduction was late (11.06 yr), and mean interbirth interval (41 ± 9.1 mo) and juvenile period (9.5 ± 1.8 yr) were long. Multimale grouping of 2 adult males and 1 female was a common alternative (21.2% groups) to the traditional hylobatid pair-living social organization in our population. Female sexual partnerships include a variety of polyandrous mating strategies for both pair-living females and females in multimale groups. From our long-term study a picture of social complexity materializes that resembles social complexities in other apes. In conclusion, we infer that gibbons share commonalities postulated to unite great apes based on similar life histories and very flexible social and sexual relationships.