Washington: A new study has revealed that mothers of sons are about 25 percent more outgoing than mothers of daughters among chimpanzees.
Boy moms were found to spend about two hours more per day with other chimpanzees than the girl moms did.
Chimpanzees have a male-dominated society in which rank is a constant struggle and females with infants might face physical violence and even infanticide. It would be safer in general to just avoid groups where aggressive males are present, yet the mothers of sons choose to do so anyway.
The findings are based on an analysis of 37 years of daily observations of East African chimpanzeess from the Gombe National Park in Tanzania. Duke University houses all of the data from the famous Kasekela chimpanzee community in the Jane Goodall Institute Research Center, which contains more than 50 years of observational data all the way back to Jane Goodall's first hand-written observations from the early 1960s.
For the most part, mothers with offspring spend their time alone or with adult daughters and other dependents. Adult males are the more gregarious sex, forming coalitions with other males to assert rank, defend their territory and hunt as a group.
Mothers with sons were found to spend more time with others and to associate with more of their kin. During the first six months of an infant's life, mothers with sons spend significantly more time in mixed-sex parties than mothers with daughters.
This study also suggested that it was possible the sons themselves are driving the increased gregariousness later in life. In early infancy, the boy mothers spend about the same time in female-only groups that the girl moms do. But as their sons become older, boy moms spend more time in female-only, nursery groups, probably because the young males are attracted to the offspring of other females as playmates.
Social exposure has a potential downside too. Females with low rank are known to experience more social stress in large groups, and there is always a risk of infanticide against the young chimpanzees.
Perhaps the best way to avoid having infants killed is to steer clear of groups, which the mothers do up to 70 percent of the time.