Allomothering, which is defined as non-material infant care, is a behavior that is found among many animal species. Although it is widely acknowledged in primate species in particular, it is not well understood. Allomaternal behavior is well documented but the proximal causes are not known. Most primate species live in groups and have intense social relations which govern every aspect of their behavior. Allomothering could then be better understood by looking at the social relationships that exist between members of a group. This research tries to better understand what causes certain females to allomother over others by looking at the relationships between mothers, allomothers, and the rest of the colony in Peruvian and Guyanese squirrel monkeys. Observational data was collected on captive groups over a five month period by observing huddling groups, those in proximate contact, and kinship relationships. These factors were thought to affect which individuals participated in allomothering. This research found that huddling groups were not significant indicators of which monkeys would participate in allomothering. Proximal contact had the strongest significant effect on allomaternal behavior while kinship had a weaker, yet significant, effect. However, kinship only had an effect when older siblings carried younger siblings. Although huddling partners were found to be an insignificant factor, this research still suggests that social cliques and kinship do in fact have an effect on vllomaternal behavior. One possible reason huddling partners did not have an effect on allomaternal behavior is that because juvenile females do most of the allomothering and females may only huddle with other monkeys that are similar in age. Further research needs to be accomplished on what factors affect this behavior in female squirrel monkeys.
Wright, Amber, "Mom's Day Out: Investigating the Proximate Causes of Allomothering in Squirrel Monkeys" (2005). Anthropology Undergraduate Senior Theses. 12.