CZAAWE Resource Article

Diminished maternal responsiveness during pregnancy in multiparous female common marmosets
Publication Type 
Journal Article
Year of publication 
Hormones and Behavior
Common marmoset monkeys (Callithrix jacchus) live in small groups in which, usually, only a single female breeds and all group members provide infant care. When two females breed concurrently, however, they may commonly kill one another's infants, especially during the peripartum period. To investigate the mechanisms underlying infanticide by breeding females, we characterized responses of multiparous females to infants and determined circulating hormone levels in adult females during early pregnancy, late pregnancy, and the early postpartum period. Additionally, we compared the responses of postpartum females to their own infants and infants of other females (unfamiliar infants). Postpartum females were highly maternal toward both their own and unfamiliar infants, and showed no differences in their behavioral or hormonal responses to the two. During both early and late pregnancy, however, these females exhibited longer latencies to initially approach unfamiliar infants and spent less time carrying unfamiliar infants. Moreover, females spent less time carrying unfamiliar infants during late pregnancy than early pregnancy. Most late pregnant females never carried infants, and those that did rejected them quickly. Prolactin concentrations were higher and progesterone concentrations lower postpartum than in early or late pregnancy, while estradiol concentrations, the estradiol-to-progesterone ratio, and cortisol levels were higher during late pregnancy. Within reproductive conditions, however, maternal behaviors were not correlated with hormone levels. These results suggest that maternal responsiveness in marmosets may be attenuated during pregnancy, especially late pregnancy, and this may contribute to infanticide by breeding females.