For lemurs, putting the kids in kindergarten isn’t just beneficial to the young ‘uns–it provides necessary foraging time for mom. A new study from Yale University finds that in black-and-white ruffed lemurs, mothers that pool their litters of infants together and share maternal responsibilities were more successful, i.e. their offspring were more likely to survive.
Black-and-white ruffed lemurs mother in packs, using a “kindergarten” system of putting all their offspring together to allow mothers to share responsibilities.
The system is rare in non-human primates, but it provides a couple key advantages for lemurs. Some mothers get off the hook for watching their little tykes while they forage for food, while others watch the nest, full of completely-dependent lemur babies. Females share nests with both relatives and non-relatives, though not all female lemurs choose to live communally.
“Mothers that cooperate have more time to eat and take care of themselves and, in turn, their offspring are more likely to survive,” co-author Brenda Bradley, an assistant professor in anthropology, explained. Next, the researchers plan to study why certain lemur moms decide to go it alone, despite the advantages of communal living.
The study is published in the Aug. 6 edition of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.