Nav: Home

Bonobo mothers help their sons to have more offspring

May 20, 2019

"This is the first time that we can show the impact of the mother's presence on a very important male fitness trait, which is their fertility," says Martin Surbeck, a primatologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "We were surprised to see that the mothers have such a strong, direct influence on the number of grandchildren they get."

Surbeck and his colleagues observed wild populations of bonobos in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as wild populations of chimpanzees in Ivory Coast, Tanzania, and Uganda. They found that while both bonobo and chimpanzee mothers would advocate for their sons in male-on-male conflicts, bonobo moms went the extra mile to aid their sons' copulation efforts. This involved protecting their sons' mating attempts from other males and intervening in other male's mating attempts.

The bonobo mothers were also able to use their rank in the bonobo's matriarchal society to give their sons access to popular spots within social groups in the community and help them achieve higher male status - and therefore, better mating opportunities. The authors note that these interactions were rare in chimpanzee societies and did not have an effect on male fertility; in chimpanzees males hold dominant positions over females, making the actions of chimp mothers less influential than those of bonobo mothers.

Interestingly, bonobo moms did not extend similar help to their daughters, nor were there any observations of daughters receiving assistance in rearing their offspring. "In bonobo social systems, the daughters disperse from the native community and the sons stay," Surbeck says. "And for the few daughters that stay in the community, which we don't have many examples of, we don't see them receiving much help from their mothers."

Moving forward, Surbeck and his team would like to better understand the benefits these behaviors confer on bonobo mothers. Currently, they think that it allows for an indirect continuation of their genes. "These females have found a way to increase their reproductive success without having more offspring themselves," he says, noting that the prolongation of the post-reproductive human female lifespan, as well as the early-age at which human women can no longer bare children, may have evolved from this indirect method of continuing their genetic line.

Surbeck acknowledges that gathering data on post-reproductive lifespans of females in chimp and bonobo communities will require a long-term, collaborative study, similar to this one. "Without the help and participation from all of the field sites where data was collected, these important interactions could have been overlooked," he says. "Now as the director of a bonobo field site, I'm looking forward to further exploring this topic."
-end-


Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Related Fertility Articles:

What are your chances of having a second IVF baby after fertility treatment for the first?
As the restrictions on fertility clinics start to be lifted and IVF treatment resumes, research published in Human Reproduction journal offers reassuring news to women who have had to delay their treatment for a second IVF baby because of the coronavirus.
Fertility preservation use among transgender adolescents
Transgender adolescents often seek hormonal intervention to achieve a body consistent with their gender identity and those interventions affect reproductive function.
A new way to assess male fertility
Current tests for male fertility include measuring the concentration and motility of spermatozoa.
Male fertility after chemotherapy: New questions raised
Professor Delbès, who specializes in reproductive toxicology, conducted a pilot study in collaboration with oncologists and fertility specialists from the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) on a cohort of 13 patients, all survivors of pediatric leukemia and lymphoma.
Vaping may harm fertility in young women
E-cigarette usage may impair fertility and pregnancy outcomes, according to a mouse study published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society.
Are fertility apps useful?
Researchers at EPFL and Stanford have carried out an analysis of the largest datasets from fertility awareness apps.
Marijuana and fertility: Five things to know
For patients who smoke marijuana and their physicians, 'Five things to know about ... marijuana and fertility' provides useful information for people who may want to conceive.
How could a changing climate affect human fertility?
Human adaptation to climate change may include changes in fertility, according to a new study by an international group of researchers.
Migrants face a trade-off between status and fertility
Researchers from the universities of Helsinki, Turku and Missouri as well as the Family Federation of Finland present the first results from a new, extraordinarily comprehensive population-wide dataset that details the lives of over 160,000 World War II evacuees in terms of integration.
Phthalates may impair fertility in female mice
A phthalate found in many plastic and personal care products may decrease fertility in female mice, a new study found.
More Fertility News and Fertility Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Making Amends
What makes a true apology? What does it mean to make amends for past mistakes? This hour, TED speakers explore how repairing the wrongs of the past is the first step toward healing for the future. Guests include historian and preservationist Brent Leggs, law professor Martha Minow, librarian Dawn Wacek, and playwright V (formerly Eve Ensler).
Now Playing: Science for the People

#566 Is Your Gut Leaking?
This week we're busting the human gut wide open with Dr. Alessio Fasano from the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. Join host Anika Hazra for our discussion separating fact from fiction on the controversial topic of leaky gut syndrome. We cover everything from what causes a leaky gut to interpreting the results of a gut microbiome test! Related links: Center for Celiac Research and Treatment website and their YouTube channel
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.