Owl Monkeys are great Fathers! And they are loyal to their mates!
Tomorrow is Father's day and animals are not normally thought of as being good fathers. For most species, the mothers do most of the work feeding and nurturing their young. Owl monkeys appear to be an exception!
If there were a competition for "best father" in the animal kingdom, owl monkeys might very well win.
Why? Because father owl monkeys provide most of the care needed by their young--carrying them almost all the time, even when chased by predators. By contrast, caregiving from owl monkey mothers to their young is limited almost exclusively to nursing.
Considering the high prevalence of "deadbeat dads" and even "cannibal dads" in the animal kingdom, why--of all creatures--are father owl monkeys so attentive and protective of their young? This question is answered by Patricia C. Wright of Stony Brook University.
Wright's insights on owl monkeys are largely based on her many years of researching them in the rain forests of South America. Her research was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Wright is a renowned primate researcher and conservationist, the 2014 winner of the Indianapolis Prize--which is generally regarded as the Nobel Prize of conservation--and the author of High Moon over the Amazon: My Quest to Understand the Monkeys of the Night (Lantern Books: 2013).
Wright said that owl monkeys are not only devoted fathers, but are also truly monogamous - another rarity in the wild. An owl monkey is faithful to its mate until its mate dies. The unflagging fidelity of owl monkeys has been verified by DNA fingerprinting, similar to the type of DNA fingerprinting used in the courts to prove human paternity.
By contrast, DNA fingerprinting has revealed that many animal species that were once thought to be monogamous are really socially monogamous--meaning that a male and female form a long-term pair; mate and raise their young together; and spend time together; but may nevertheless occasionally mate with others. Owl monkeys are even more loyal to their mates than are those classic icons of love and fidelity--swans, which were recently revealed by DNA fingerprinting to be socially monogamous rather than truly monogamous.
Owl monkey image via Shutterstock.
Read more at research.gov.