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Why do primates carry around dead infants?

Sometimes when ape or monkey infants die, their mothers continue to groom and hold the tiny corpses for days, weeks or months, even as the babies’ bodies decay or become mummified. That distressing behavior is more widespread than previously thought, a new study finds.

Researchers recently conducted the first analysis to compare more than 400 documented cases of primate mothers interacting with their dead infants, collecting examples from more than a century of observations covering 50 primate species. The scientists then created “the largest database of primate mothers’ responses to their infants’ death,” they wrote in a new study. 

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