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Am J Phys Anthropol. 1990 Oct;83(2):185-91.

Birth spacing patterns in humans and apes.

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Orangutan Research and Conservation Project, Department of Archaeology, Simon Fraser University.


Comparative studies of birth interval dynamics in wild primates suffer from several problems of analysis and interpretation: (1) the data are always right-censored, (2) sample sizes are usually small, (3) the distribution of birth intervals is expected to be non-normal, (4) early offspring mortality is a confounding variable, and (5) differences in life history (e.g., presence or absence of menopause) can complicate interpretation of the results. A survival analysis designed to minimize these problems is applied to published data on wild chimpanzees and gorillas from Gombe and Virunga Parks, respectively, and to new data on wild orangutans from Tanjung Puting National Park and on a human population, the Gainj of highland Papua New Guinea. According to this analysis, the estimated median birth interval (when the offspring whose birth opens the interval does not die within the interval) is 43.3 +/- 1.0 months for the Gainj, 45.5 +/- 1.2 months for gorillas, 66.6 +/- 1.3 months for chimpanzees, and 92.6 +/- 2.4 months for orangutans.

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