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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2018 Jan;165(1):194-199. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.23327. Epub 2017 Oct 6.

A newborn infant chimpanzee snatched and cannibalized immediately after birth: Implications for "maternity leave" in wild chimpanzee.

Author information

1
Laboratory of Human Evolution Studies, Graduate School of Science, Kyoto University, Kitashirakawa-Oiwake-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, 606-8502.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

This study reports on the first observed case of a wild chimpanzee infant being snatched immediately after delivery and consequently cannibalized by an adult male in the Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. We demonstrate "maternity leave" from long-term data from the Mahale M group and suggest that it functions as a possible counterstrategy of mother chimpanzees against the risk of infanticide soon after delivery.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

The subjects of this study were the M group chimpanzees at Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. The case of cannibalism was observed on December 2, 2014. We used the long-term daily attendance record of the M group chimpanzees between 1990 and 2010 to calculate the lengths of "maternity leave," a perinatal period during which a mother chimpanzee tends to hide herself and gives birth alone.

RESULTS:

We observed a very rare case of delivery in a wild chimpanzee group. A female chimpanzee gave birth in front of other members, and an adult male snatched and cannibalized the newborn infant immediately after birth. Using the long-term data, we demonstrate that the length of "maternity leave" is longer than that of nonmaternity leave among adult and adolescent female chimpanzees.

DISCUSSION:

We argue that this cannibalism event immediately after birth occurred due to the complete lack of "maternity leave" of the mother chimpanzee of the victim, who might lack enough experience of delivery. We suggest that "maternity leave" taken by expecting mothers may function as a possible counterstrategy against infanticide soon after delivery.

KEYWORDS:

Mahale; Pan troglodytes; cannibalism; delivery

PMID:
28983906
DOI:
10.1002/ajpa.23327
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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