Pathways to paternal care in primates

Stacy Rosenbaum, Joan B. Silk

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Natural selection will favor male care when males have limited alternative mating opportunities, can invest in their own offspring, and when care enhances males' fitness. These conditions are easiest to fulfill in pair-bonded species, but neither male care nor stable “breeding bonds” that facilitate it are limited to pair-bonded species. We review evidence of paternal care and extended breeding bonds in owl monkeys, baboons, Assamese macaques, mountain gorillas, and chimpanzees. The data, which span social/mating systems and ecologies, suggest that there are multiple pathways by which conditions conducive to male care can arise. This diversity highlights the difficulty of making inferences about the emergence of male care in early hominins based on single traits visible in the fossil record. We discuss what types of data are most needed and the questions yet to be answered about the evolution of male care and extended breeding bonds in the primate order.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalEvolutionary anthropology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • allomaternal care
  • kin discrimination
  • parental care
  • sexual selection
  • social behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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