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Low paternity skew and the influence of maternal kin in an egalitarian, patrilocal primate


Levels of reproductive skew vary in wild primates living in multimale groups depending on the degree to which high-ranking males monopolize access to females. Still, the factors affecting paternity in egalitarian societies remain unexplored. We combine unique behavioral, life history, and genetic data to evaluate the distribution of paternity in the northern muriqui (Brachyteles hypoxanthus), a species known for its affiliative, nonhierarchical relationships. We genotyped 67 individuals (22 infants born over a 3-y period, their 21 mothers, and all 24 possible sires) at 17 microsatellite marker loci and assigned paternity to all infants. None of the 13 fathers were close maternal relatives of females with which they sired infants, and the most successful male sired a much lower percentage of infants (18%) than reported for the most successful males in other species. Our findings of inbreeding avoidance and low male reproductive skew are consistent with the muriqui’s observed social and sexual behavior, but the long delay (≥ 2.08 y) between the onset of male sexual behavior and the age at which males first sire young is unexpected. The allocation of paternity implicates individual male life histories and access to maternal kin as key factors influencing variation in paternal—and grandmaternal—fitness. The apparent importance of lifelong maternal investment in coresident sons resonates with other recent examinations of maternal influences on offspring reproduction. This importance also extends the implications of the “grandmother hypothesis” in human evolution to include the possible influence of mothers and other maternal kin on male reproductive success in patrilocal societies.