View Full Version : Trouble Over a Gelada Baby


din
10-10-2010, 12:10 PM
October 6, 2010, 5:31 pm Trouble Over a Gelada Baby

By NOAH SNYDER-MACKLER (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/author/noah-snyder-mackler/) Noah Snyder-Mackler Female geladas harassing a new mother.
Friday, Oct. 1
In baboons, a new mother will rarely find herself alone. She will be hounded constantly by other, higher-ranking females who want to look, touch and sometimes steal the infant. But female geladas do not usually show much interest in others’ babies.
A newborn gelada never leaves its mother’s chest in the first month, and it spends a majority of its time attached to her until it is about six months old. Mama geladas are extremely protective of their infants, and with good reason. Infanticide appears to be prevalent, especially following a change in dominant male (known as a “takeover”).
Male infanticide — the killing of infants by males — is the most common form of infanticide in primates. It has been argued that this is beneficial for newly dominant males because the females will come into estrus sooner, meaning they can produce the new dominant male’s offspring sooner, rather than wait until the former dominant male’s offspring are weaned. There are only a few observed cases of male infanticide in geladas, but our project has found plenty of evidence suggesting that it is common in our study population (http://sitemaker.umich.edu/jacinta.beehner/files/beehner_and_bergman_2008.pdf).
Clay Wilton
Noah Snyder-Mackler Previous Posts From Ethiopia (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/author/noah-snyder-mackler/)

Onward to Ethiopia, and Gelada Monkeys (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/onward-to-ethiopia-and-gelada-monkeys/)
An Office With a View of Monkeys (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/24/an-office-with-a-view-of-monkeys/)
Collecting Monkey Dung, in Context (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/28/collecting-monkey-dung-in-context/)
Monkeys With Personality (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/30/monkeys-with-personality/)
The Ups and Downs of Gelada Research (http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/the-ups-and-downs-of-gelada-research/)



I have observed the protectiveness of new gelada mothers. Even though I am not a newly dominant male, nor do I pose a threat, if a curious infant gets too close to me while I am doing behavioral observations, the mother will sprint over, grab her infant and threaten me by flashing her bright pink eyelids. This is when I need to back away. It’s the same response a female will give to another gelada if she perceives that her child is unsafe.
While gelada females seem to be less interested in one another’s children than baboons are, it doesn’t mean that babies are drama-free. Females rarely interact with individuals outside of their reproductive unit. But a few days ago all eight adult females in the unit that I was following began harassing a young mother from another unit. The harassment quickly escalated into violence. At one point the baby was ripped from the young mother’s hands. I was quick to pull out my video camera — female infanticide is rare! I also called over my colleague Eila Roberts, so she could help figure out which monkeys were involved.
The baby gelada was quickly snatched back by her mother, with some help from her unit-mates. Female geladas form alliances when they have nasty interactions with other units. In this situation the mother’s unit-mates — the infant’s aunts, sisters, cousins and grandmother — came to the rescue. The females within each unit lined up shoulder to shoulder and threatened those in the other unit.
Clay Wilton
When the females in two units start a fight, it almost always ends with each unit’s male sizing the other up, doing a bit of lip-smacking and making a “wobble” sound. It seems as if the males are silently agreeing that the females are causing unneeded trouble.
Eila and I couldn’t help narrating the interaction between the males:
Male No. 1: “We cool?”
Male No. 2: “Yeah, we’re cool.”
And it works! Afterward the units calm down and they get on with their day, ignoring each other.