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Behav Ecol Sociobiol. 2009 Sep;63(11):1549-1562. Epub 2009 Jul 21.

Why male orangutans do not kill infants.

Abstract

Infanticide is widespread among mammals, is particularly common in primates, and has been shown to be an adaptive male strategy under certain conditions. Although no infanticides in wild orangutans have been reported to date, several authors have suggested that infanticide has been an important selection pressure influencing orangutan behavior and the evolution of orangutan social systems. In this paper, we critically assess this suggestion. We begin by investigating whether wild orangutans have been studied for a sufficiently long period that we might reasonably expect to have detected infanticide if it occurs. We consider whether orangutan females exhibit counterstrategies typically employed by other mammalian females. We also assess the hypothesis that orangutan females form special bonds with particular "protector males" to guard against infanticide. Lastly, we discuss socioecological reasons why orangutan males may not benefit from infanticide. We conclude that there is limited evidence for female counterstrategies and little support for the protector male hypothesis. Aspects of orangutan paternity certainty, lactational amenorrhea, and ranging behavior may explain why infanticide is not a strategy regularly employed by orangutan males on Sumatra or Borneo.

PMID:
19701484
[PubMed]
PMCID:
PMC2728907
Free PMC Article

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