An advantage to hanging out at home:
In a previous post, “Nice killer moms,” I reported that there was work that showed that a male killer whale’s mother was important to the male’s success at reproduction.  Basically she backed him up when things degenerated into a fight.  But it appears that she doesn’t need to go that far. (John Raymond Mom is My Wingman SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 306 no. 2 February 2012 page 18)  Well maybe.

It turns out that among some monkeys males who spend a lot of time with their mothers have better reproductive success than those who do not.  In an economic era where a lot of young people return to their parental home for a period of time – I did so myself many years ago – this may be a bit of a comfort, although it didn’t work out for me.

The thing is that while among killer whales the mother’s contribution is obvious, among monkeys it is not quite clear what she is doing.  It is observed that inbreeding is less common among stay-at-homes.  Well that would account for some of it.  She could be giving him clues that this or that particular female would not be a wise choice.  How the signal might be passed has not been worked out.  It would make sense that staying with the mother might contribute to a tendency to engage in optimal outbreeding.  Any local female is likely to be more closely related than a distant one, particularly if the male has stayed with his mother a lot.  Once the mother clues him in about avoiding inbreeding, he has the best chance of pursuing the female or females with which he can achieve the greatest reproductive success. 

Of course it might not be that at all.  Maybe males who form and keep close ties with their mothers simply like females better than those that do not.  One does not envision a monkey showing up at his girl friend’s tree in a straw hat and blazer toting candy and ukulele, but that does not mean feelings have nothing to do with it. 

On balance, though, it looks like one for the stay at homes.

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