Rare photos of golden snub-nosed monkeys in China show that helping each other out during birth is far from a strictly human phenomenon. The monkeys are wild, living in China’s Qinling Mountains.
A Chinese research team described the moment that a female monkey assisted a birthing mother in a paper published in this month’s edition of the journal Primates.
The first monkey, a female who had given birth multiple times herself, went to the side of the pregnant female, groomed her and stayed nearby as the female started having ᴄᴏɴᴛʀᴀᴄᴛɪᴏɴs. Later, the helper “attempted to pull the infant from the birth canal” of the mother, researcher Bao-Guo Li, of Northwest University in Xi’an, China, said.
This birth took place during the day, though it’s unclear whether the unusual time of the birth was related to the second female helping out.
What the researchers observed flies in the face of the belief that birth assistance is a strictly human behavior, according to the researchers.
“Social assistance during childbirth has been proposed as a uniquely human characteristic due to the fact that direct assistance from other individuals during birth is not common in wild primates,” Li said.
Though female monkeys are generally able to give birth on their own, assistance could “provide several adaptive advantages in terms of physical effort, and social and emotional support,” Li said.
This is the first time researchers have observed this behavior in golden snub-nosed monkeys. However, the network points out that scientists observed birth assistance in langur monkeys in 2014, and black-and-white snub-nosed monkeys in 2013.
Li noted that humans rarely observe wild monkey births in general.
“Detailed reports and quantitative descriptions of daytime births in wild nonhuman primates are still rare and remain poorly understood because most births occur at night,” Li said in the email.