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Birth in Free-ranging Macaca fuscata

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Sarah E. Turner.

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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

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Keywords

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