Mating and Parenting
Chimpanzees mate throughout the year, although the number of females in estrus varies seasonally in a group. Female chimps are more likely to come into estrus when food is readily available. Estrous females exhibit sexual swellings. Chimp mating tends to be promiscuous, with females mating with multiple males in her community during estrus. As such, males have large testicles for sperm competition. However, other forms of mating also exist. A community's dominant males sometimes restrict reproductive access to females. A male and female can form consortship and mate outside their community. In addition, females sometimes leave their communities and mate with males from neighboring communities.
These alternative mating strategies give females more mating opportunities without losing the support of the males in their community. Infanticide has been recorded in chimp communities in Gombe, Mahale, and Kibale National Parks. Male chimps practice infanticide on unrelated young to shorten the interbirth intervals in the females. There are also accounts of infanticide by females. There are questions whether cases of female infanticide are related to the dominance hierarchy in females or are simply isolated pathological behaviors.
Care for the young is provided mostly by their mothers. The survival and emotional health of the young is dependent on maternal care. Mothers provide their young with food, warmth, and protection, and teach them certain skills. In addition, a chimp’s future rank may be dependent on its mother’s status. For their first 30 days, infants cling to their mother's bellies. Newborn chimps are helpless; their grasping reflex is not strong enough to support them for more than a few seconds. Infants are unable to support their own weight for their first two months and need their mothers' support.
When they reach five to six months, infants ride on their mothers’ backs. They remain in continual contact for the rest of their first year. When they reach two years of age, they are able to move and sit independently. By three years, infants will move further away from their mothers. By four to six years, chimps are weaned and infancy ends.
The juvenile period for chimps lasts from their sixth to ninth years. Juveniles remain close to their mothers, but they also have more interactions with other members of their community. Adolescent females move between groups and are supported by their mothers in agonistic encounters. Adolescent males spend time with adult males in social activities like hunting and boundary patrolling.
Famous quotes containing the words mating and/or parenting:
“Hes one of those know-it-all types that, if you flatter the wig off him, he chatter like a goony bird at mating time.”
—Michael Blankfort. Lewis Milestone. Johnson (Reginald Gardner)
“The ideal of men and women sharing equally in parenting and working is a vision still. What would it be like if women and men were less different from each other, if our worlds were not so foreign? A male friend who shares daily parenting told me that he knows at his very core what his wifes loving for their daughter feels like, and that this knowing creates a stronger bond between them.”
—Anonymous Mother. Ourselves and Our Children, by Boston Womens Health Book Collective, ch. 6 (1978)