$102,619 Federal Study: Male Owl Monkeys Are the Main Providers of Infant Care

Melanie Arter | April 22, 2015 | 2:30pm EDT
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Owl monkey (Photo courtesy of the Owl Monkey Project)

(CNSNews.com) – The National Science Foundation has awarded $102,619 in taxpayer funds to Yale University to study why male owl monkeys are the main providers of infant care – “transporting, sharing food and grooming the infant more than the mother.”

“Few aspects of human and non-human primate behavior are so intriguing as the intensive care of infants by fathers, and nowhere among primates is paternal care more extensive than among owl monkeys,” the grant stated.

The study, titled, “Costs and Benefits of Biparental Care in Monogamous Owl Monkeys,” will “expand the broad impacts of the Owl Monkey Project,” started in 1996 by Dr. Eduardo Fernandez-Duque, who is also the principal investigator of the NSF grant.

The Owl Monkey Project is considered the “only long-term research program on any mammal species in the Argentinean Gran Chaco.”

Owl monkeys live in “monogamous groups with only one reproducing male and one reproducing female.”

“The father is the main provider of infant care, transporting, sharing food and grooming the infant more than the mother; paternal investment is exceptionally strong and apparent in this species,” the grant stated.

Researchers will “investigate the hypothesis that the functional significance of paternal care in owl monkeys relates to the bioenergetic benefits that the parenting couple accrues from the father’s assistance.”

“Taking a novel approach that combines research on both captive and wild owl monkeys, the team will gather data on foraging and activity patterns, body mass changes, energy intake, and hormones,” the grant said.

“The relevance of the study, which has the potential to transform how energetics are measured in the field, lies in contributing to the understanding of the role of males in societies that are characterized by a strong bond between partners and shared parental duties,” it added.

Funding for the project began on July 1, 2014 and expires on Feb. 29, 2016.

CNSNews.com contacted Fernandez-Duque by email for comment, but no response was given by press time.

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