Life History Variation in Primates
Extensive variation in life-history patterns is documented across primate species. Variables included are gestation length, neonatal weight, litter size, age at weaning, age at sexual maturity, age at first breeding, longevity, and length of the estrous cycle. Species within genera and genera within subfamilies tend to be very similar on most measures, and about 85% of the variation remains when the subfamily is used as the level for statistical analysis. Variation in most life-history measures is highly correlated with variation in body size, and differences in body size are associated with differences in behavior and ecology. Allometric relationships between life-history variables and adult body weight are described; subfamily deviations from best-fit lines do not reveal strong correlations with behavior or ecology. However, for their body size, some subfamilies show consistently fast development across life-history stages while others are characteristically slow. One exception to the tendency for relative values to be positively correlated is brain growth: those primates with relatively large brains at birth have relatively less postnatal brain growth. Humans are a notable exception, with large brains at birth and high postnatal brain growth.