"Stay at Home" Baboon Dads Raise Healthier Kids

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2

Typically, species in which dads play a major role in parenting are also those where couples pair up for the long-term, such as siamangs—a type of gibbon—and owl monkeys.

(Related news: "Monkey Dads Gain Weight With Their Mates, Study Says" [February 6, 2006].)

But baboon dads appear to get involved because their effort pays off for their offspring.

The study appears this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

It Pays to Parent

Daughters born to high-ranking moms mature earlier—a lifelong advantage—and during their lives typically give birth to half an infant more on average than other females.

(Related news: "Baboon Study: Sociable Moms Have Healthier Young" [November 13, 2003].)

"We're thinking that the effect of the fathers' [influence may be] similar," study author Alberts said.

Elizabeth Susman of Pennsylvania State University suggests that the role stress reduction plays may be linked to the endocrine system.

"When you reduce stress, you increase the probability that reproduction would occur," Susman explained.

"If you're under high-stress conditions, your sex steroid hormones are suppressed, which would delay puberty."

Opposite Effect

Susman also pointed out, as did the new study, that many studies on humans find children raised in homes without a father present actually reach sexual maturity faster.

"It has been found in a number of studies ... [but] there is no explanation that has worked across all studies," Susman said.

It's also unknown how baboon dads produce the opposite effect, said UCLA's Silk.

But researchers now know that baboons consider parenting to ensure survival of their offspring important, she said.

"Now people will go back and ask how and why males have this effect," she said. "[Until] now you wouldn't have asked this question—and it's a really relevant question."

Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).

<< Back to Page 1   Page 2 of 2


SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES

ADVERTISEMENT

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC'S PHOTO OF THE DAY

NEWS FEEDS     After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.   After installing a news reader, click on this icon to download National Geographic News's XML/RSS feed.

Get our news delivered directly to your desktop—free.
How to Use XML or RSS

National Geographic Daily News To-Go

Listen to your favorite National Geographic news daily, anytime, anywhere from your mobile phone. No wires or syncing. Download Stitcher free today.
Click here to get 12 months of National Geographic Magazine for $15.