Milk composition varies in relation to the presence and abundance of Balantidium coli in the mother in captive Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Primate infants require extensive maternal investment, and lactation is the most expensive aspect of this investment. However, the relationship between maternal condition and milk composition has been largely uninvestigated in primates. To better understand this relationship, I collected mid-lactation milk samples from 46 captive multiparous rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) at the Caribbean Primate Research Center, Sabana Seca Field Station, Puerto Rico. The maternal variables assessed were age, weight, weight for crown-rump length (CRL), and presence of parasites. Additionally the analysis included infant age, weight, and sex. Protein concentration in milk showed little interindividual variation, whereas fat had a high variance. Mothers without the lower intestinal parasite Balantidium coli had a significantly higher fat concentration in milk than mothers with B. coli, but other parasite species (Trichuris trichiura and Strongyloides fulleborni) were not associated with milk fat concentration. Females with younger infants had a higher fat concentration in their milk than mothers with older infants; however, the association between B. coli and milk fat remained significant after controlling for infant age. These results, obtained from a well fed captive population, indicate that even small differences among mothers are associated with milk composition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)625-634
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007



  • Balantidium coli
  • Lactation
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Maternal condition
  • Milk composition
  • Rhesus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this