Thursday, April 22, 2010

Male monkeys use babies to make guy friends

It seems like a good plan. Whether it’s a cute baby or dog a cute defenseless being somehow allows one to better socialize with other. It’s the same for some monkeys as well, but I thought the benefit would be only meeting more females. Turns out I’m wrong.

A new study published in Animal Behavior has found that male Barbary macaques have a better chance of bonding when one is carrying an infant on their back. When the two males meet they undergo a ritual of sorts. Julia Fischer, one of the authors describes it, "[they] sit together, embrace each other, then they hold up the infant and nuzzle it. Their teeth chatter and lip smack while making low frequency grumbling noises."

There are significant benefits to having a bunch of guys as friends as well. One monkey rose from fifth to second place on the social ladder by having the most male friends. The baby also doesn’t even have to belong to male carrying it.

However the research also found a cost to using your baby as a “social tool.” Feces samples taken from males, who carry their babies, showed that they had higher stress levels. Baby macaques sound very similar to human infants when they cry, so its not surprising that the male gets stressed out when this happens.

Social benefits are known to occur for females holding a baby as well (more grooming and attention). Although, I was surprised to learn that the same thing occurred with males getting popular with the other men in the group and rising in rank. Yet another interesting behavior displayed by monkeys.

Posted by Daniel Solomon (3)


  1. This is just interesting to me. It almost makes me laugh because I have multiple male friends who carry their girlfriends babies because they like the "attention" they recieve. It is not exactly the same behavior but you can see where I'm coming from.

    Jennifer Kalisz

  2. It never surprises me what goes on in nature. I wonder what kind of social benifit the monkeys receive for doing this acction? I wonder what purpose does this serve? The monkeys must have a close social network. I don't feel it the same as a human bringing their dog to the park because the monkeys are showing of their babies to other male monkey, which is the interesting part. I wonder if its a way to show off, maybe if their baby is bigger than the other males baby that could mean something to the monkeys? I love primates, and their behavior is very interesting.

  3. Haha it never surprises me when I hear about situations like this that occur in the animal kingdom. I agree with Ray in that I would like to know what purpose did this originally serve to merit the continuation of this behavior? I find it amazing how animals are able to bond over infants the same way humans do. I wonder is this behavior exclusive only to this species of primate or do many other species do this as well. It would be interesting to know if this was an evolutionary trait that has carried over through the years.

    Posted by Charly Almonte

  4. Interesting, this can be true to human being also, I see that a lot. If you walk around the mall or at the park you will see. I believe these primates must have a social gain from this type of behavior.

    Posted by Anna Moreno.

  5. This discovery not only shows the vast complexities of animal behavior, but also the intelligence of the particular species of monkey. Their social system seems to be well defined, and based on popularity. These democratic monkeys have even found ways of increasing their social rank by campaigning around with their offspring. I am curious to learn what other factors determine the primates social ladder.

    Posted by Matt Grazewski

  6. This aritcle hits on a few major behaviors in animals. You state that males use babies in order to become "friends" with other males. I would have thought that the males use the child as a method of protection, to ensure their safety. I guess I have been taught that we associate human qualities with animals, and this article is a good example of this. Do these monkeys actually make friends, or is this some kind of give and take relationship and for what? There is alot more that I would like to know about this subject after reading your article.

    Posted by Amanda Hostetter

  7. No wonder they are related to humans since their behaviors are so human like. I also wonder if the male macaques with their babies attract females as well, because based on the article the macaques only attract other males. Also, are their any benefits for the baby macaques through interacting with other adult macaques?

    Posted by Vinh Tran

  8. This kind of behavior is common in primates, and there are numerous examples of females with babies getting a lot of attention and care (grooming/protection) from both males and females. This article found that males could use them to the same affect with other males whereas beforehand it was only observed to work on females when the males carried them. I’m not sure as to how this behavior was first displayed but the effect is that males who carry a baby were observed to have stronger “ties” to other males during the spring than other males who didn’t carry a baby. In the study this was based on the number of interactions males had with other males that didn’t involve aggression. However, this trend wasn’t all that strong in its linear regression analysis so it doesn’t have that much strength. What did have a nice correlation was that carrying babies did make the males have increased stress hormone levels. Thus we can say that males carrying babies have more stress with more confidence than if we say babies allow for improved relations with other males.

    Posted by Daniel Solomon


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