Deceased-infant carrying in Nonhuman Anthropoids: Insights from systematic analysis and case studies of Bonnet Macaques (Macaca radiata) and Lion-Tailed Macaques (Macaca silenus)

Sayantan Das, Joseph J. Erinjery, Nisarg Desai, Kamaraj Mohan, Honnavalli N. Kumara, Mewa Singh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Existing models of attachment do not explain how death of offspring affects maternal behavior. Previous descriptions of maternal responsiveness to dead offspring in nonhuman anthropoids have not expounded the wide variation of deceased-infant carrying (DIC) behavior. Through the current study, we attempt to (a) identify determinants of DIC through a systematic survey across anthropoids, (b) quantitatively assess behavioral changes of mother during DIC, and (c) infer death perception of conspecifics. Firstly, we performed phylogenetic regression using duration of DIC as the dependent variable. Secondly, we undertook case studies of DIC in the bonnet monkey and the lion-tailed monkey through behavioral sampling. Results of phylogenetic Generalized Linear Mixed Model (Nspecies = 18; Ncases = 48) revealed a strong homology (H2 = 0.86). We also obtained a high intraspecific variation in DIC and found DIC to be affected by mother's age, context of death, habitat condition, and degree of arboreality. We found bonnet mothers to carry their deceased offspring for 3.56 ± 4.03 SD days (N = 7) with diminished feeding, enhanced passivity, and social isolation during DIC and progressive decline in protection/ attentiveness of corpse and attachment. Following Anderson (2016)'s framework of death perception, we interpreted repeated sensory investigation of corpses by mothers as comprehending causality of death, inanimate handling of corpse and its defense as comprehension of non-functionality, and a progressive disinterest of mothers in them as perceiving irreversibility of death. Lastly, we integrated DIC with mother-infant attachment theories and proposed a conceptual model characterizing DIC with causal determinants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-170
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of comparative psychology (Washington, D.C. : 1983)
Volume133
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2019

Keywords

  • Bonnet monkey
  • Deceased-infant carrying
  • Grief
  • Mother-infant attachment
  • Response to death

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