EvoS Journal: The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium
Volume 9, Issue 1, 2021-2022
Theories on the Evolution and Function of Allomothering in Primates
Shemi, N. R.
Allomothering is a prevalent social exchange between primate mother-infant dyads and female conspecifics. Theories on the evolution and function of allomaternal behavior suggest seemingly contradicting views: while originally seen as an altruistic behavior that provides help to mothers, allomothering has been reconsidered under a Darwinian light as a selfish behavior that mainly benefits allomothers. Additionally, playmothering can sometimes result in mistreatment and either intentional or unintentional abuse of infants. In a cost-benefit analysis of potential outcomes of allomothering, the substantial selfish benefit allomothers gain by practicing maternal skills is possibly offset by the various benefits it provides to mother-infant dyads, suggesting the two views are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Furthermore, allomothering can be considered adaptive since young female primates that display maternally inclined behaviors would be inherently better mothers, and selection for the behavior could be due to physiological changes that lead to increased interest in neonates, resulting in optimal maternal disposition. Future research on the social exchanges between female primates in relation to infant-directed behavior can provide more substantial syntheses of the current theories on allomothering and its underlying evolutionary rationale.
How to cite this article:
Shemi, N. R. (2022). Theories on the evolution and function of allomothering in primates. The Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, 9(1), 25-36.