Monkey mamas in love
When interacting with babies, primate behavior is strikingly similar to that of human mothers.
Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 04:44 PM
MOTHERLY LOVE: Humans aren't the only ones making monkey faces at babies. (Photo: Jackol/Flickr)
If you thought baby talk, silly faces, and cooing sounds were behaviors unique to human mommies, you'd be mistaken. e!Science News reports that rhesus macaque (a type of monkey) mothers behave the same way. Research from Current Biology, a Cell Press journal, reveals that mother and baby monkeys interact similarly to human families. e!Science News quotes researcher Pier Francesco Ferrari, stating, "[Human mothers] smile at [their babies] and exaggerate their gestures, modify their voice pitch ... and kiss them. What we found in mother macaques is very similar."
The behavioral research is considered crucial to understanding the "establishment of social exchange with others," according to the article. Past research indicated these types of interactions were unique to humans, a sign of advanced emotional and psychological development because human infants respond to and mimic their mothers' expressions. The findings show that the macaques might share our species' "rich internal world."
The study examined 14 mother/baby sets from birth to two months, finding that the macaque monkeys spent more time staring at or exchanging funny faces (lip smacking, etc.) than other types of monkeys. The macaques also put their faces up close to their babies, bobbing their heads around and playing a sort of monkey peek-a-boo.
But, according to Ferrari, the face time stopped after the baby monkeys were just 1 month old. This indicates the macaques have potentially faster development than humans in terms of motor skills and independence. Ferrari says of the monkeys, "what happens next in the first and second month of life is that infants become more interested in interacting with their same-age peers."
The study offers new insights for the fields of mother/infant behavior, emotional communication, and social exchanges with others, including sensitivity to and appreciation of others' intentions and emotions.