Research ArticleANTHROPOLOGY

Routine allomaternal nursing in a free-ranging Old World monkey

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Science Advances  20 Feb 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 2, eaav0499
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav0499


While regular allomaternal nursing (suckling) has been documented in a number of rodent and carnivore species, as well as in some prosimians, New World monkeys, and humans, it is not common in Old World monkeys and apes. Here, we present a detailed field study of allomaternal nursing in golden snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus roxellana, Colobinae). We found that more than 87% of infants were nursed by females other than their mothers. Allomaternal nursing was largely confined to the first 3 months of an infant’s life and occurred predominantly between related females who nursed each other’s offspring in a reciprocal manner. Allomaternal nursing enhanced infant survivorship and did not have a negative impact on the future reproductive success of allonursers. Our findings expand the taxonomic distribution of allomaternal nursing and provide fresh insight into the possible factors driving evolution of allomaternal nursing behavior in primates, including humans.

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