< Back to previous page


Evidence for adolescent length growth spurts in bonobos and other primates highlights the importance of scaling laws

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Adolescent growth spurts (GSs) in body length seem to be absent in non-human primates and are considered a distinct human trait. However, this distinction between present and absent length-GSs may reflect a mathematical artefact that makes it arbitrary. We first outline how scaling issues and inappropriate comparisons between length (linear) and weight (volume) growth rates result in misleading interpretations like the absence of length-GSs in non-human primates despite pronounced weight-GSs, or temporal delays between length- and weight-GSs. We then apply a scale-corrected approach to a comprehensive dataset on 258 zoo-housed bonobos that includes weight and length growth as well as several physiological markers related to growth and adolescence. We found pronounced GSs in body weight and length in both sexes. Weight and length growth trajectories corresponded with each other and with patterns of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor-binding protein 3 levels, resembling adolescent GSs in humans. We further re-interpreted published data of non-human primates, which showed that aligned GSs in weight and length exist not only in bonobos. Altogether, our results emphasize the importance of considering scaling laws when interpreting growth curves in general, and further show that pronounced, human-like adolescent length-GSs exist in bonobos and probably also many other non-human primates. © 2023, Berghaenel, Stevens et al.
Journal: ELIFE
Volume: 12
Publication year:2023
Keywords:Animals, Artifacts, Female, Male, Pan paniscus, Phenotype, Primates, Testosterone