Tibetan macaque twins

Source: scientias.nl, photo: Noel Rowe
In most primate species, twins are rare. This is not altogether illogical, as carrying and providing food for two young at once costs so much energy. Yet a Tibetan macaque female was observed raising a pair of twins successfully.
A group of Tibetan macaques in China was the object of study by a team of researchers. Though the animals do receive some food from humans, they are not completely dependent on people, and they live in their natural environment. They do not remain close to humans.

A set of twins was born in this group, which allowed the researchers to observe at close range how the mother coped with her pair of young. To everyone’s amazement, it went just fine. The mother was young and fairly small, yet she was able to carry – even to run with – both of her young.

The mother of the twins did have to choose her own strategy. In comparison with other females with one, and others without offspring, she spent more time resting and feeding and less time socialising and traveling. It is probable that the combination of extra food received from humans and her own behavioural strategy allowed her to raise both offspring.

The first experiences (up to five months after the birth) have been published in the journal Primates. The Tibetan macaque twins will remain the object of observation in the years ahead, but for now, they are doing well. Researcher Megan Matheson said in an interview that she is very curious to see how the macaque twins will develop, and if they will have a closer relationship to each other than is usually seen in macaque siblings.
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