Friday, November 23, 2007

Friday's Primate Party

How did you get so heavy, boy?
We had monkey-spit coffee at last week's party. This week: would you like some macaque milk with that?

A study published in this week's Current Biology looked at the quality of the milk produced by first-time macaque mothers. Male monkey babies received milk with a higher fat content than did female babies, who were presumably conforming to peer pressure to be skinny.

Actually, the sole author (there's a rarity) hypothesises that this discrepancy is the best reproductive strategy for the mother. While daughters will inherit their mother's social status, the status and therefore the reproductive success of males depends on their size and weight. So producing a happy, fat little monkey boy increases the chances that the monkey momma will pass on her genes to lots and lots of cute little monkey grandchildren.

The study didn't mention how the sex of the baby influences the quality of the milk - I wonder whether this is determined during pregnancy, or afterwards? Hormones, pheromones, the alleged male sense of entitlement? Who knows?


  1. Is it known whether this is true in humans too? BTW, I don't think I've ever seen a non-review single-author paper.

  2. I'm not sure, the paper didn't say, but I've never heard anything to suggest that this might be true in humans.

    I've seen a couple of single-author papers, and the weirdest thing is when instead of "we conclude" they say "I conclude". It just seems wrong somehow!


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