Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center
Thursday Afternoon, 301D
For over four decades baboon socio-ecology was dominated by a dichotomic view which contrasted hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas) with their multi-level social organization based on one-male units with savannah baboons (P. anubis, P. cynocephalus and P. ursinus) living in female-bonded multi-male multi-female groups. According to socio-ecological theory, variation in food-distribution, competitive regime and predation pressure were thought to provide ultimate causes for the proposed dichotomy. However, doubts accumulated that contemporary ecology is sufficient to explain variation in baboon social systems, e.g. it became obvious that the intra-specific ecological diversity was almost as broad as the inter-specific variation. New data from the two species of baboons that had been only little studied, Guinea (P. papio) and Kinda baboons (P. kindae), point to an even greater variability in social organization than previously recognized. Guinea baboons live in a system superficially similar to hamadryas baboons, but they differ in a prominent unique feature, the high frequency of male-male interaction and male-male tolerance. First genetic analyses further suggest that in Guinea baboons males are predominantly philopatric. In Kinda baboons, the most obvious feature is their small sexual dimorphisms and high frequency of male-female interaction, suggesting strong male-female bonds. Here we will argue that knowledge of Guinea and Kinda baboons not only expands our view of baboon societies but that this also supports the view that inter-specific differences among societies are more closely associated with variation in life-history, reproductive strategies and the phylogenetic history than with differences in their ecology.
This study was funded in part by the German Science Foundation (FI 707/9-1), the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Christian-Vogel-Fund.