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Zuhong Liang - Top 30 Publications

Birth intervention and non-maternal infant-handling during parturition in a nonhuman primate.

Direct intervention in infant delivery by non-parturient individuals is a rare phenomenon in nonhuman primates. In contrast, birth assistance by other individuals, or the practice of midwifery, is universal among human societies and generally believed to be a behavior unique to our species. It has been proposed that the enlarged head of the human fetus and the relatively narrow birth canal constrained by bipedalism has made human parturition more difficult than in nonhuman primates, and these anatomic challenges have led to the rotation of the fetus in the birth canal and an occiput anterior (i.e., backward-facing) orientation of emergence. These characteristics have hindered the mother's ability to self-assist the delivery of the infant, therefore necessitating assistance by other individuals or midwives for successful birth. Here we report the first high-definition video recordings of birth intervention behavior in a wild nonhuman primate, the white-headed langur (Trachypithecus leucocephalus). We observed that while a primiparous female gave birth to an infant in an occiput posterior (i.e., forward-facing) orientation, a multiparous female intervened in the delivery by manually pulling the infant out of the birth canal and cared for it in the following hours. Our finding shows extensive social interactions throughout parturition, and presents an unequivocal case of non-maternal intervention with infant birth in a nonhuman primate.