Research biologist Dr Maren Huck, of the University’s Department of Biological and Forensic Sciences, spent more than a year in the sub-tropical forests of Northern Argentina observing owl monkeys. The primates are unusual in being monogamous and that males are heavily involved in rearing their young; playing with and carrying them about, activities which use up a lot of the small primate’s energy.
Dr Huck’s work looking at the behaviour of owl monkey groups suggests that the males’ child rearing reinforced the genetic monogamy of the primate pairs – meaning the males were less prone to infidelity and breeding with females from other pairs in their community – and vice-versa.
The research – conducted in partnership with the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Argentina’s Centro de Ecologia Aplicada del Litoral – will be published in the Royal Society journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Dr Huck hopes it will inspire further studies into how a monogamous species benefits from the greater involvement of its males in raising children. Even among other primates and mammals this remains rare, humans being one of them.
The work by Dr Huck and her fellow researchers contributes to an 18 year-long study of owl monkey groups with co-researcher Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, of the University of Pennsylvania (USA).