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This study demonstrates how maternal presence and maternal social status can impact offspring phenotype in wild chimpanzees. Importantly, even once offspring are nutritionally independent, maternal loss has negative consequences on their growth. "Our results emphasize the crucial role of mothers and suggest that even in the absence of consistent direct provisioning from mothers to offspring, chimpanzee mothers still indirectly influence food consumption in their offspring", Liran Samuni, one of the two first authors on the study, points out.
This may occur in similar ways to humans. Mothers may provide support to their offspring during competitive interactions with others, and increase their chance to 'win' conflicts, or soften reactions of offspring to challenging situations. Also, mothers may provide opportunities for offspring to learn how to find and access hard to extract or rare food items. Patrick Tkaczynski, the other first author on the study
Our study provides evidence that a mother-offspring association and dependence that lasts beyond the weaning age, although unique in its duration and level of investment in human societies, may be a trait with deep evolutionary origins that we share with one of our closest living relatives. Catherine Crockford, head of the ERC project group Ape Attachement and senior author of the study Source:
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology Journal reference:
Samuni, L. et al . (2020) Maternal effects on offspring growth indicate post-weaning juvenile dependence in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). Frontiers in Zoology . doi.org/10.1186/s12983-019-0343-8
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