Primates that play, grow slower but benefit later in life
Frolicking, wrestling, climbing, jumping – Playing is a lot of fun and promotes development but is also very strenuous. Behavioral biologists therefore suspect that animals only play intensively if they have surplus energy at their disposal or if playing brings about vital advantages.
Scientists led by Julia Ostner from the University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research investigated this in young Assamese macaques in their natural habitat in Thailand. They found that those animals that play a lot grow more slowly than their less active conspecifics. However, during play they learn motoric skills that are vital for fight and flight. Thus, it depends on the respective conditions whether faster growth or more play is the right choice (Science Advances, 2015).
Active play promotes motoric development but at the same time it uses a lot of energy, which is required for an unimpeded growth process. Evolutionary biologists examining play behavior in animals are faced with a Darwinian paradox: Most definitions of play behavior include that the behavior does not serve any immediate purpose and is not assignable to an obvious function.
Any behavior that generates costs but no benefits should disappear through natural selection. The prevalence of play behavior in the animal kingdom was therefore explained by the notion that it produces indirect or long-term benefits but occurs only when the animals have sufficient energy available: Playing promotes the motoric, cognitive and social development and only takes place when the animals are healthy, well fed and safe. "Our findings on Assamese macaques contradict this notion", says Andreas Berghänel, first author of the published study.
Young Assamese macaques, who spend a lot of time wrestling and romping in the jungles of Thailand, grow more slowly than their less playful conspecifics. "Thus, unconstrained development does not appear to be more important than play, young monkeys overexert themselves so much by playing that they cannot keep up with the growth process,” says Julia Ostner, head of the study.
The more playful monkeys thereby risk maturing later and having fewer offspring. However, there is also a clear benefit: The more time an infant spent playing intensely before acquiring a new motoric skill, the earlier in life it masters this motoric task. A faster motoric development is very beneficial if one is involved in fights or must flee from enemies. "Thus, my recommendation to parents: send your kids out to play and feed them a good dinner afterwards to make them grow tall and smart", says Julia Ostner.
Since 2014 Julia Ostner is Professor and Head of Department at the Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute for Zoology and Anthropology at the University of Göttingen. In addition, she heads the Research Group Social Evolution in Primates at the German Primate Center - Leibniz Institute for Primate Research since 2015. Julia Ostner studies the behavior of Assamese macaques at a research station in Phu Khieo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thailand. Since 2014, the research station is financed by the German Primate Center.
Andreas Berghänel, Oliver Schülke, Julia Ostner (2015): Locomotor play drives motor skill acquisition at the expense of growth: a life history trade-off. Science Advances. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/1/7/e1500451
Prof. Dr. Julia Ostner
Behavioral Ecology, Johann-Friedrich-Blumenbach Institute for Zoology and Anthropology at the University of Göttingen and Research Group Social Evolution in Primates, German Primate Center
Phone: +49 551 39-33925
Dr. Sylvia Siersleben (PR)
Phone: +49 551 3851-163
Printable pictures and videos are available in our media database. We kindly request a specimen copy in case of publication.
The German Primate Center (DPZ) – Leibniz Institute for Primate Research conducts biological and biomedical research on and with primates in the fields of infection research, neuroscience and primate biology. The DPZ maintains three field stations in the tropics and is the reference and service center for all aspects of primate research. The DPZ is one of 89 research and infrastructure facilities of the Leibniz Association.
http://www.dpz.eu/de/startseite.html - Website of the German Primate Center
http://medien.dpz.eu/webgate/keyword.html?currentContainerId=2861 - Media database
http://www.dpz.eu/en/unit/social-evolution-in-primates/about-us.html - Research group Social Evolution in Primates
http://www.uni-goettingen.de/en/153624.html - Department of Behavioral Ecology, University of Göttingen
Dr. Susanne Diederich | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
How herpesviruses win the footrace against the immune system
26.05.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Life Sciences
26.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy