HEB Colloquium: "Evolutionary Insights into the Origins of Fatherhood: Causes & Consequences of Male Caretaking in Wild Mountain Gorillas"


Monday, January 22, 2018, 4:00pm to 5:30pm


Haller Hall, Geological Museum Room 102, 24 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA

Dr. Stacy Rosenbaum

Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Evolutionary and Ecological Approaches to Health and Development Group, Northwestern University



The evolutionary origins of human males’ flexible reproductive strategies, which can include intense bonding with offspring that is unusual for a mammal, continue to be a source of lively debate. Though male caretaking has typically been described as absent in other living great apes, strong social bonds between adult male and infant mountain gorillas (gorilla beringei) are a key component of this species’ remarkably flexible social structure, and may have important fitness consequences for males, infants, and mothers alike. Using data from wild gorillas in Rwanda that have been monitored for half a century, I will explore the function of these unusual relationships, including evidence that they improve males’ future reproductive success These findings point to a pathway by which male caretaking could be selected for even in the absence of high paternity certainty, and thereby lead to the evolution of more complex and derived forms of paternal involvement.