Physiologic Correlates of Interactions between Adult Male and Immature Long-tailed Macaques ( Macaca fascicularis)

J Am Assoc Lab Anim Sci. 2017 Nov 1;56(6):718-728.


Interactions between adult males and immature members of the same species are rare in most mammals; in contrast, an estimated 40% of primate species are characterized by an involvement of males in the social life of infants and juveniles. The proximate mechanisms of male-infant interactions are largely unstudied, and very few direct benefits for males have been proposed, especially in uniparental species in which the identity of the male parent is uncertain. In this study, we aimed to assess the relationship among behavioral and physiologic stress, health, and various affiliative behaviors initiated by adult males toward infants and juveniles in long-tailed macaques. We hypothesized that males that spent more time with infants and juveniles would have lower physiologic and social stress and better health than males with less interaction. We observed 2 troops of macaques with established social hierarchies (n = 18 in troop 1 and n = 8 in troop 2), each occupying a stable area within the enclosure, for more than 200 h. Fecal samples were used to assess cortisol levels as a measure of physiologic stress, and blood samples were collected to measure oxytocin levels as an index of social responsiveness. Our results indicated that male affiliative behavior directed toward immature animals was significantly higher in the troop characterized by more social conflicts; midranking males interacted more with infants than high- and low-ranking males in both troops. Furthermore, the DHEA:cortisol ratio, a physiologic index of resilience and coping, was positively correlated with males' affiliative responses, suggesting a neuroprotective role of male-infant interactions. In summary, our data support a proximate mechanism of alloparenting or paternal behavior in uniparental species. Interacting with infants and juveniles could provide an immediate neurobiologic benefit to adult males by facilitating adaptive coping responses to social tensions.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Hierarchy, Social
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis
  • Macaca fascicularis / physiology*
  • Male
  • Oxytocin / analysis
  • Social Behavior*


  • Oxytocin
  • Hydrocortisone