Q&A

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Can a fish hold its breath, and do in­sects show signs of ag­ing?

Birth rates in pri­mates de­pend on a va­ri­ety of so­cial and en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors as well as species-spe­cific fac­tors, and dif­fer enor­mously as a re­sult. Many mon­keys, for in­stance, pro­duce off­spring every year, while great apes have much longer in­ter­vals be­tween births – chim­panzees have one in­fant every five years; orang­utans one every eight years.

Apes are par­tic­u­larly slow to breed due to their large body sizes, slow rates of mat­u­ra­tion and long life­spans. A fe­male’s dom­i­nance rank and the qual­ity of the food avail­able in her home range will also im­pact her abil­ity to re­pro­duce. She will there­fore only give birth to a hand­ful of off­spring that will sur­vive to adult­hood across her life­time, even in the ab­sence of an­thro­pogenic pres­sures and threats. This makes apes par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, as their bi­ol­ogy makes it dif­fi­cult for them to re­cover from even small de­clines caused by hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties. Liz Green­grass

Fe­male bono­bos have five or six off­spring in their life­time, car­ing for each young­ster un­til it reaches four or five years of age.

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