Marmoset babies have a higher likelihood of survival 30 days after birth when attended by a good father, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison implies.
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Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the researchers’ findings highlight the importance of both parents meeting their baby’s needs early in life. Doing so fosters growth and independence with time, and creates a healthy, balanced workload between both the mother and father.
Out of 24 different marmoset fathers used in the experiment, only about 60% were Johnny on the spot, performing above-average regarding fatherly behavior.
To come up with this figure, the researchers played distress call recordings of infant marmosets to gauge the fathers’ interest in helping. Only those 60% worked hard to find the source of the sound.
Just like a human father that heard their baby crying loudly and ran to help, the marmoset dads were trying to find the distressed infant and investigate whether there was anything they could do to help.
"These are the fathers that are really motivated to take care of their offspring's essential needs early on," said researcher Toni Ziegler at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. "And that shows in the step up the infants get."
As the study went on, the researchers paid close attention to what they now deemed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fathers. They also reviewed the infants' health independently.
87% of baby marmosets accompanied by responsive fathers survived their first 30 days without a hitch. Comparatively, a mere 45% of baby marmosets with unresponsive fathers survived.
These figures speak for themselves, but to add icing to the cake, the researchers noted how marmosets attended by good fathers put on more weight between 6-12 weeks of age.
"They do these little food calls, and encourage the offspring to come over and taste the food they have. The fathers are the first and most into that," Ziegler said. "It's likely the really interactive fathers are spending more effort to get the young to the food and make this transition work. They produce a better predictive weight gain."
These findings underscore the dramatic difference that fatherly behavior makes on marmoset survival, and it's very likely that we'd see similar trends in various animal species throughout the world; humans included.
"Whether that's nature or nurture, and whether it's something that gets passed down, those are the kind of questions we hope we're able to work on down the road," she continued.
For now, it’s just an assumption that we’d see similar trends in other animal species, but future studies could help validate whether that’s really the case.