International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 175–184 | Cite as

Male Infanticide in the Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), a Seasonally Breeding Primate

  • Hui Yao
  • Huiliang Yu
  • Banghe Yang
  • Wangji Yang
  • Haiqing Xu
  • Cyril C. Grueter
  • Ming Li
  • Zuofu XiangEmail author


In nonhuman primates, infanticide by adult males can occur when the leader male is ousted from a one-male, multifemale group, or when male dominance rank changes within a multimale, multifemale group. According to the sexual selection hypothesis, this behavior may be adaptive if perpetrators increase their reproductive success by killing unrelated, unweaned infants, thus shortening the interbirth interval of the mother, and then siring her next infant. Under an alternative hypothesis, infanticide is a byproduct of aggressive male–male competition and these predictions do not hold. Direct observations of the context surrounding infanticide in free-ranging primate populations that allow a test of these predictions are rare. Here, we document four cases of male infanticide and report paternity data for a group of golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana) at Shennongjia, China. Three cases of infanticide by new leader males supported the predictions of the sexual selection hypothesis, while another provides partial support for the sexual selection hypothesis, but can also be explained via a nonadaptive hypothesis. In this latter case, a male from an all-male group killed an infant during an aggressive episode that appeared to be accidental, as it took place 7 mo before a male takeover happened, and the perpetrator did not obtain any reproductive advantage. We conclude that most male infanticide events in golden snub-nosed monkeys are consistent with the adaptive selection sexual hypothesis.


Male infanticide Rhinopithecus roxellana Sexual selection hypothesis 



This study was supported by the National Key Technology R & D Program of China (2013BAD03B03), the Opening Project of Hubei Key Laboratory of Conservation of the Golden Snub-nosed Monkey (2014snjac003), and the State Forestry Administration of China. We would like give special thanks to Dr. Joanna Setchell for her constructive suggestions and extensive editing of the manuscript. We also thank Dominic Cram, Dieter Lukas, and Alicia Krzton for useful suggestions and editing the English in the manuscript. We thank James Higham, Elise Huchard, and one anonymous reviewer for their valued suggestions for revisions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hui Yao
    • 1
    • 2
  • Huiliang Yu
    • 2
  • Banghe Yang
    • 3
  • Wangji Yang
    • 2
  • Haiqing Xu
    • 2
  • Cyril C. Grueter
    • 4
  • Ming Li
    • 3
  • Zuofu Xiang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.College of Life Science and TechnologyCentral South University of Forestry & TechnologyChangshaChina
  2. 2.Key Lab of Conservation Biology for Shennongjia Golden Monkey, Hubei ProvinceShennongjia Forest DistrictChina
  3. 3.Key Lab of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.School of Anatomy, Physiology, and Human BiologyThe University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

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