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Placentophagy in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Bossou, Guinea

Abstract

Despite intensive observation of nonhuman great apes during long-term field studies, observations of great ape births in the wild are rare. Research on wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Bossou in the Republic of Guinea has been ongoing for 35 years, yet chimpanzee parturitions have been observed on only two occasions. Here we provide information regarding both chimpanzee births, with detailed information from the close observation of one. During this birth, the mother built a day nest in a tree before parturition. After giving birth, the mother consumed the placenta, and the other chimpanzees in her party gathered near her and her neonate. However, she did not share the placenta, and consumed it all herself. In the second observation, the mother also built a nest in a tree and subsequently gave birth. Thereafter, she shared the placenta with some individuals and consumed part of the placenta herself. Although maternal placentophagy is a ubiquitous behavior among the majority of non-human primates, observations of placenta sharing by wild primates are infrequent, and the proximate and ultimate explanations for the behavior remain unclear.

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Acknowledgments

We thank the DNRST, Guinea. We also thank the local assistants for their invaluable help and Bossou villagers for continuing support. We are grateful to M. Reilly, K.L. van Leeuwen for assistance in the field, and T. Udono for helpful comments. This work was supported by MEXT grants #20002001, #20040001, JSPS-HOPE and ITP-HOPE, Japan, to TM, and a research grant to KH from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Portugal (PTDC/CS-ANT/121124/2010).

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Correspondence to Michiko Fujisawa.

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Fujisawa, M., Hockings, K.J., Soumah, A.G. et al. Placentophagy in wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) at Bossou, Guinea. Primates 57, 175–180 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-016-0510-x

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Keywords

  • Chimpanzee
  • Birth
  • Parturition
  • Placentophagy
  • Food sharing