New male spells death for unborn monkeys

When a new leader takes control of a troop of gelada monkeys, he is likely to kill the offspring of his predecessor. His arrival is also bad news for young yet to be born: they’ll be aborted within weeks.

Scientists found that the number of births fell sharply in the six months after a new dominant male took over a group, suggesting females were aborting their fetuses. As a check, they took hormone samples from females’ faeces, allowing them to track 60 pregnancies closely. Of nine failures, eight occurred in the two weeks after the father was replaced.

The strategy makes sense, because females don’t want to waste energy on offspring likely to be killed after they are born. Learn more here.

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