Lateralized behavior is considered an observable phenotype of cerebral functional asymmetry and has been documented in many mammalian species. In the present study, we examined evidence of lateralization in neonatal nipple contact, maternal cradling, and the relationship between these two behaviors during the first 12 weeks of life in wild Taihangshan macaques (Macaca mulatta tcheliensis). The results showed that across our sample of nine mother–infant dyads: (1) Seven of nine neonates exhibited a significant left-side nipple preference during the first 12 weeks of life, whereas eight of nine mothers displayed a significant right-side cradling preference; (2) at the population level, there was a significant preference for left nipple contact by neonatal Taihangshan macaques and a significant right-hand maternal cradling preference; (3) at the population level, there was a nonsignificant negative correlation between neonatal nipple preference and maternal cradling bias; and (4) the strength of individual neonatal nipple preference and maternal cradling laterality were not correlated. We conclude that asymmetry in nipple contact of Taihangshan macaques occurs early in behavioral development. Given that infant Taihangshan macaques are able to nurse and cling unassisted to their mothers within a few days after birth, it appears that the infant rather than its mother is responsible for determining a nipple-side preference. Our results indicating a left-side nipple bias in 78% of wild neonatal Taihangshan macaques are most consistent with the heartbeat hypothesis.
- behavioral development
- heartbeat hypothesis
- mother–infant interaction
- Taihangshan macaque (Macaca mulatta tcheliensis)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology