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Costs of maternal care infant carrying in baboons

Costs of maternal care infant carrying in baboons

Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 29(6): 391-398

Infant-carrying, the most costly form of primate parental care other than lactation, was investigated in savannah baboons of Amboseli, Kenya. Measurements of physical growth, counts and length of paces, and simultaneous records of carrying and locomotion were used to evaluate the time, distance, and energetic expenditure of infant-carrying. Finally, we modeled the energetics of independent infant locomotion and considered ontogenetic patterns in the alternative energetic costs of carrying versus independent infant locomotion under assumptions of complete nutritional dependency. The youngest infants were carried by their mothers during all travel and foraging, for a total of 8-10 km/day. By 8 months of age, both carrying time and distance were almost zero. However, daily carrying distance, unlike carrying time, did not decline in the first few months, because older infants were carried disproportionately during rapid travel and, consequently, for greater travel distances per unit carrying time. Females of low dominance rank carried their infants the most; the highest ranking mothers not only carried their infants least but biased their carrying against sons. Although carrying a growing infant is an increasingly costly behavior, during the period of nutritional dependence energetic costs to the mother are appreciably greater if an infant travels independently instead of being carried by its mother. Yet infants increased locomotor independence at a younger age than predicted by a simple model of maternal energetic efficiency. Trade-offs in energetic economy may enhance a mother's future reproduction at the expense of her present infant, may enhance survival of the present infant by promoting early acquisition of developmentally essential skills, or may suggest the importance of additional factors that influence the mother's and infant's behavior.

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