Term of Award

Summer 2000

Degree Name

Master of Science

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Department

Department of Biology

Committee Chair

John W. Parrish

Committee Member 1

C. Ray Chandler

Committee Member 2

David Rostal

Abstract

Infant transfer, the maneuvering of an infant from one caregiver to another has been reported in many species of primates. Although transfer patterns and mechanisms for transferring to an alloparent have been investigated among anthropoid species, they have been little studied to date in prosimians. The Wildlife Survival Center on St. Catherines Island (Liberty County, Georgia) is home to 37 free-ranging ringtailed lemurs (Lemur catta) in 3 groups. Thirteen infants born into these groups were observed from birth to 16 weeks of age between March and November, 1999. Using focal animal sampling, I collected a total of 416 hours of data on these infants. These data were used to test the following hypotheses: (1) infants will initiate transfers to a new caregiver most often rather than being passively taken, (2) differences in gender will have no influences on transfer frequency, (3) matrilineal kin will be involved in transfers with infants more often than nonkin or distantly related animals in the group. I recorded a total of 879 transfers. Infants actively selected (i.e., moved independently from one caregiver to another) a caregiver during 99% (874/879) of transfers, while passive transfer (infant was physically removed from caregiver) occurred in only 1% (n=5) of the scores. Overall, infants actively transferred most often to females (93%), and to kin (96%). However, there was a significant interaction between adult sex, age and kinship. Transfers to males tended to be to subadult kin, whereas transfers to females tended to be to adult kin. The results of a 4-way G-test showed that no interactions involving sex of the infant were significant, and that females and males showed similar transfer patterns (x2=0.0, Idf). The results of a 3-way G-test showed infants actively transferred to subadult males four times more often than to adult males irrespective of kinship, whereas infants transferred significantly more to related adult females than to nonkin and subadult females (x2=50.37, Idf). However, a 2-way G-test showed infant active transfers occurred mostly to related subadult males, with no transfers to adult male kin, whereas when infants actively transfer to nonkin, those transfers were only slightly more frequent to subadults than adult nonkin (x2=390.09, Idf). In contrast, active transfers were significantly more abundant to related adult females than to related subadults.

Nearest neighbor data showed that during the infant's early developmental days, female kin were tolerated most in close proximity to the mother-infant pair (81%) and nonkin males were tolerated 11% of the time. Therefore, since the mothers mostly tolerated other kin females, infant transfer patterns may have been influenced by who the mother tolerated in close proximity to herself and infant. These results indicate that free-ranging infant ringtailed lemurs play the role of active initiator, and that transfers were based on the gender, kinship and age of the new caregiver.

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