Holding babies helps male monkeys make friends

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Washington, April 22 (ANI): Male Barbary macaques have a better chance of bonding with each other when at least one is hauling around an infant, a new research has found.

The study is among the first to show that infants likely serve as social tools for at least some primates.

Like a human father pushing around junior in a stroller or walking a gentle dog, the presence of a cute, young, defenseless being seems to ease tension when meeting others.

Co-author Julia Fischer said that when a Barbary macaque male encounters another male with an infant, a 'bizarre ritual' takes place.

She said that the males 'sit together, embrace each other, then they hold up the infant and nuzzle it. Their teeth chatter and lip smack while making low frequency grumbling noises.' This can go on for quite a few minutes.

"Sometimes the males part. But sometimes they just sit there, holding the infant, and some time later proceed through this ritual once more. These interactions require an infant, so to speak, and the assumption is that carrying an infant is attractive because it allows you to interact with other males in this way," Discovery News quoted her as saying.

Fischer and colleagues conducted the study at an outdoor enclosure at La Foret des Singes in Rocamadour, France.

The researchers documented encounters between male macaques, and also took chemical samples from the males' feces to measure their physiological stress.

They found that males toting infants had stronger ties with other males than non-carriers. Male relationships, as a result, tended to be stronger during the spring than during the autumn.

Males who worked their networks in such a way tended to rise up the monkey social ladder.

However, using infants as a 'social tool' came with a cost. The researchers found the baby-hauling males were more stressed out because the often-crying infants got on the carriers' nerves.

The study has been published in the journal Animal Behavior. ANI)

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