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Folia Primatol (Basel). 2003 Sep-Dec;74(5-6):246-58.

Costs and potential benefits of parental care in the nocturnal fat-tailed dwarf lemur (Cheirogaleus medius).

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Department of Animal Physiology, Philipps University, Marburg, Germany.


Parental care should evolve only if fitness benefits exceed fitness costs. In Cheirogaleus medius, a small nocturnal lemur of western Madagascar, we found the peculiar situation of considerable parental care by both sexes, combined with an extremely high rate of extra-pair young (EPY). In this paper, we try to elucidate the costs and benefits of parental care in C. medius, and we discuss hypotheses as to why males might actively participate in raising young, especially with regard to the high rate of EPY. The study was carried out in the dry deciduous forest of western Madagascar between 1996 and 2001. The most important components of parental care in C. medius are babysitting and guarding of the young. Observational data suggest that thermoregulatory demands during the first days after birth and defence from predators may be the driving factors selecting for this infant care behaviour. The reproducing individuals of both sexes incur considerable energetic costs by this behaviour, resulting in reduced fat stores and body condition in comparison to non-reproducing individuals. The reason why males also care for EPY remains elusive. We propose that males might not be able to detect individual relatedness and that they would jeopardise the survival of their own young if they gave no parental care. Alternatively, they might gain advantages other than direct fitness from raising EPY, for example if caring behaviour increases their chances in further reproduction, or if EPY are fathered by close kin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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