Birth in Free-ranging Macaca fuscata


The birth process is an integral part of reproductive success in mammals, yet detailed, quantitative descriptions of parturition in nonhuman primates are still rare. Observations of free-ranging births can help to elucidate factors involved in this critical event, to contribute to our understanding of how maternal and infant behaviors during parturition affect infant survival and to explain the evolution of human birth. We provide data on the parturition behavior of 4 multiparous Japanese macaques: 2 daytime live births that we photographed and video recorded at the Awajishima Monkey Center (AMC), Awaji Island, Japan in 2006; a daytime live birth video recorded in 1993 at the AMC; and a nocturnal breech stillbirth of a captive Macaca fuscata, video recorded at the Kyoto Primate Research Institute in 2006. Certain behaviors were similar among the females, such as touching of the vulva followed by licking of fingers, squatting during contractions, and average contraction durations. Parturient females facilitated the birth manually by guiding the emerging infant. There were also dissimilarities in the duration of the labor and birth stages, condition of the infant at birth, and the mother’s behavior immediately postpartum. The mother’s postpartum behavior ranged from almost entirely infant-focused to predominantly related to the consumption of the placenta. The 3 free-ranging females all showed considerable social tolerance during labor and birth. We argue that social proximity at parturition is more common in nonhuman primates than previously emphasized, and has potential adaptive advantages.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. Abegglen, H. & Abegglen, J.-J. (1976). Field observation of a birth in Hamadryas baboons. Folia Primatologica (Basel), 26, 54–56.

  2. Adachi, M. Saito, R. & Tanioka, Y. (1982). Observation of delivery in the rhesus monkey. Primates, 23, 583–586.

  3. Bowden, D. Winter, P. & Ploog, D. (1967). Pregnancy and delivery behavior in the squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus) and other primates. Folia Primatologica (Basel), 5, 1–42.

  4. Brandt, E. M. & Mitchell, G. (1971). Parturition in primates: Behavior related to birth. In L. A. Rosenblum (Ed.), Primate behavior: Developments in field and laboratory research (Vol. 2, pp. 177–223). New York: Academic Press.

  5. Brandt, E. M. & Mitchell, G. (1973). Labor and delivery behavior in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 38, 519–522.

  6. Caine, N. & Mitchell, G. (1979). Behavior of primates present during parturition. In J. Erwin, T. L. Maple & G. Mitchell (Eds.), Captivity and behavior (pp. 112–124). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

  7. Chinnock, M. & Robson, S. (2007). Obstetric trainees’ experience in vaginal breech delivery. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 110, 900–903.

  8. Chivers, D. J. & Chivers, S. T. (1975). Events preceding and following the birth of a wild siamang. Primates, 16, 227–230.

  9. Condit, V. K. & Smith, E. O. (1994). Yellow baboon labor and parturition at the Tana River National Primate Reserve, Kenya. American Journal of Primatology, 33, 51–55.

  10. Coss, R. G. McCowan, B. & Ramakrishnan, U. (2007). Threat-related acoustical differences in alarm calls by wild bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) elicited by python and leopard models. Ethology, 113, 352–367.

  11. Dias, P. A. D. (2005). Observation of parturition in the Mexican mantled howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) on the Island of Agaltepec, Veracruz State, Mexico. American Journal of Primatology, 65, 93–98.

  12. Duboscq, J. Neumann, C. Perwitasari-Farajallah, D. & Engelhardt, A. (2008). Daytime birth of a baby crested black macaque (Macaca nigra) in the wild. Behavioral Processes, 79, 81–84.

  13. Fairbanks, L. A. (1990). Reciprocal benefits of allomothering for female vervet monkeys. Animal Behavior, 40, 553–562.

  14. Fraser, D. Phillips, P. A. & Thompson, B. K. (1997). Farrowing behaviour and stillbirth in two environments: an evaluation of the restraint-stillbirth hypothesis. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 55, 51–66.

  15. Goodall, J. & Athumani, J. (1980). An observed birth in a free-living chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) in Gombe National Park, Tanzania. Primates, 21, 545–549.

  16. Gorzitze, A. B. (1996). Birth-related behaviors in wild proboscis monkeys (Nasalis larvatus). Primates, 37, 75–78.

  17. Gouzoules, H. T. (1974). Group responses to parturition in Macaca arctoides. Primates, 15, 287–292.

  18. Hammerschmidt, K. & Ansorge, V. (1989). Birth of a Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus): acoustic and behavioural features. Folia Primatologica (Basel), 52, 78–87.

  19. Hannah, M. E. Hannah, W. J. Hewson, S. A. Hodnett, E. D. Saigal, S. & Willan, A. R. (2000). Planned caesarean section versus planned vaginal birth for breech presentation at term: a randomized multicentre trial. Lancet, 356, 1375–1383.

  20. Hrdy, S. B. (2009). Mothers and others. The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

  21. Itoigawa, N. & Tanaka, T. (1963). Parturition and neonate’s behavior in Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata). The Annual of Animal Psychology (Dobutsu shinrigaku nenpo), 13, 71–81.

  22. Jolly, A. (1972). Hour of birth in primates and man. Folia Primatologica (Basel), 18, 108–121.

  23. Kanazawa, T., & Nakamichi, M. (1991). Parturition behavior during the last 3 hours prior to delivery in captive Japanese macaques. In A. Ehara, T. Kimura, O. Takenaka & M. Iwamoto (Eds.), Primatology today: Proceedings of the XIIIth Congress of the International Primatological Society, Nagoya and Kyoto 18–24 July 1990 (pp. 423–426). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

  24. Kemps, A. & Timmermans, P. (1982). Parturition behaviour in pluriparous Java-macaques. Primates, 23, 75–88.

  25. Kinnaird, M. F. (1990). Pregnancy, gestation and parturition in free-ranging Tana River crested mangabeys (Cercocebus galeritus galeritus). American Journal of Primatology, 22, 285–289.

  26. Kristal, M. B. (1991). Enhancement of opioid-mediated analgesia: a solution to the enigma of placentophagia. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 15, 425–435.

  27. Kumar, A. Solanki, G. S. & Sharma, K. B. (2005). Observations on parturition and allomothering in wild capped langur (Trachypithecus pileatus). Primates, 46, 215–217.

  28. Malmkvist, J. Gade, M. & Damm, B. I. (2007). Parturient behaviour in farmed mink (Mustela vison) in relation to early kit mortality. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 107, 120–132.

  29. Moreno, L. Salas, I. C. & Glander, K. E. (1991). Breech delivery and birth-related behaviors in wild mantled howling monkeys. American Journal of Primatology, 23, 197–199.

  30. Nakamichi, M. Imakawa, S. Kojima, Y. & Natsume, A. (1992). Parturition in a free-ranging Japanese monkey. Primates, 33, 413–418.

  31. Nakamichi, M. Nobuhara, H. Nobuhara, T. Nakahashi, M. & Nigi, H. (1997). Birth rate and mortality rate of infants with congenital limb malformations of the limbs in the Awajishima free-ranging group of Japanese monkeys (Macaca fuscata). American Journal of Primatology, 42, 225–234.

  32. Nakamichi, M. Yamada, K. Ohtsuka, N. Imakawa, S. Yasuda, J. & Shizawa, Y. (2004). Case reports on parturition and maternal behavior in a free-ranging group of Japanese monkeys at Katsuyama. Primate Research, 20, 31–43.

  33. Nash, L. T. (1974). Parturition in a feral baboon (Papio anubis). Primates, 15, 279–285.

  34. Negayama, K. Negayama, T. & Kondo, K. (1986). Behavior of Japanese monkey (Macaca fuscata) mothers and neonates at parturition. International Journal of Primatology, 7, 365–378.

  35. Nigi, H. (1982). Nihonzaru no Seino Seiri (Reproductive physiology in Japanese monkeys). Tokyo: Doubutsu-sha.

  36. Nowak, R. Porter, R. H. Lévy, F. Orgeur, P. & Schaal, B. (2000). Role of mother-young interactions in the survival of offspring in domestic mammals. Reviews of Reproduction, 5, 153–163.

  37. Peker, S. Kowalewski, M. M. Pavé, R. E. & Zunino, G. E. (2009). Births in wild black and gold howler monkeys (Alouatta caraya) in northern Argentina. American Journal of Primatology, 71, 261–265.

  38. Price, E. C. (1990). Parturition and perinatal behaviour in captive cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Primates, 31, 523–535.

  39. Pusey, A. Murray, C. Wallauer, W. Wilson, M. Wroblewski, E. & Goodall, J. (2008). Severe aggression among female Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii at Gombe National Park, Tanzania. International Journal of Primatology, 29, 949–973.

  40. Ramakrishnan, U. & Coss, R. G. (2001). Strategies used by bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) to reduce predation risk while sleeping. Primates, 42(3), 193–206.

  41. Ratnayeke, A. P. & Dittus, W. P. J. (1989). Observation of a birth among wild Toque macaques (Macaca sinica). International Journal of Primatology, 10, 235–242.

  42. Rawlins, R. G. (1979). Parturient and postpartum behavior of a free-ranging rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta). Journal of Mammalogy, 60(2), 432–433.

  43. Rosenberg, K. & Trevathan, W. (2002). Birth, obstetrics and human evolution. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 109, 1199–1206.

  44. Rosenberg, K. R. (1992). The evolution of modern human childbirth. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology, 35, 89–124.

  45. Sekulic, R. (1982). Birth in free-ranging howler monkeys Alouatta seniculus. Primates, 23, 580–582.

  46. Stewart, K. J. (1984). Parturition in wild gorillas: behaviour of mothers, neonates, and others. Folia Primatologica (Basel), 42, 62–69.

  47. Sunderland, N. Heffernan, S. Thomson, S. & Hennessy, A. (2008). Maternal parity affects neonatal survival rate in a colony of captive bred baboons (Papio hamadryas). Journal of Medical Primatology, 37, 223–228.

  48. Suzuki, M. T. Ono, T. Kohno, M. & Ogawa, H. (1990). Hour of delivery in cynomolgus monkeys under indoor individually-caged conditions. Primates, 31, 251–255.

  49. Takahata, Y. Koyama, N. Miyamoto, N. & Okamoto, M. (2001). Daytime deliveries observed for the ring-tailed lemurs of the Berenty Reserve, Madagascar. Primates, 42, 267–271.

  50. Timmermans, P. J. A. & Vossen, J. M. H. (1996). The influence of repeated motherhood on periparturitional behavior in cynomolgus macaques (Macaca fascicularis). International Journal of Primatology, 17, 277–296.

  51. Trevathan, W. R. (1987). Human birth: An evolutionary perspective. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

  52. Trevathan, W. R. (1988). Fetal emergence patterns in evolutionary perspective. AA, 90, 674–681.

  53. Tunde-Byass, M. O. & Hannah, M. E. (2003). Breech vaginal delivery at or near term. Seminars in Perinatology, 27, 34–45.

  54. Turner, S. E. Fedigan, L. M. Nobuhara, H. Nobuhara, T. Matthews, H. D. & Nakamichi, M. (2008). Monkeys with disabilities: prevalence and severity of congenital limb malformations in Macaca fuscata on Awaji Island. Primates, 49(3), 223–226.

  55. Windfelder, T. L. (2000). Observations on the birth and subsequent care of twin offspring by a lone pair of wild emperor tamarins (Saguinus imperator). American Journal of Primatology, 52, 107–113.

  56. Wittman, A. B. & Wall, L. L. (2007). The evolutionary origins of obstructed labour: bipedalism, encephalization, and the human obstetric dilemma. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 62, 739–748.

Download references


S. E. Turner thanks the Nobuhara and Nakahashi families for their hospitality and permission to conduct research at the Awajishima Monkey Center and the following for providing funding: LSB Leakey Foundation, Animal Behavior Society, Izaak Walton Killam Memorial Scholarship, Province of Alberta Graduate Scholarship, Queen Elizabeth II Scholarships, University of Calgary, University of Calgary Department of Anthropology, and National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (Postgraduate Scholarship B). L. M. Fedigan’s research is supported by an NSERC Discovery Grant and the Canada Research Chair’s Program. K. Shimizu thanks Mr. Takumi Kunieda for his work on compiling the video footage of Mff1549’s parturition. Cake’s parturition was also documented by Mr. Tatsuya Okada of NTV; we thank him for access to his footage for comparison to our own. We thank C. Walsh, A. Jacob, M. Irwin, K. Tombak, the Chapman Lab discussion group at McGill University, and 1 anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on manuscript drafts; Dr. J. Ha for the customized behavioral data collection Palm program; and Ms. T. Nosal for assistance with Japanese translation. S. E. Turner thanks N. Turner, C. Holmes, and J. Glass for the privilege of witnessing natural human labor and birth and Prof. F. and Mrs. H Taniguchi, Mr. K. and Mrs. K. Okada and family, Dr. C. Chapman, Dr. M. Huffman, Dr. P. Asquith, and Ms. Y. Kamata for supporting the research.

Author information

Correspondence to Sarah E. Turner.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

(MPG 104806 kb)

(MPG 156082 kb)


(MPG 104806 kb)


(MPG 156082 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Turner, S.E., Fedigan, L.M., Nakamichi, M. et al. Birth in Free-ranging Macaca fuscata . Int J Primatol 31, 15–37 (2010) doi:10.1007/s10764-009-9376-8

Download citation


  • labor and delivery
  • Japanese macaque
  • maternal behavior
  • neonate
  • parturition