The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

“Following,” an alternative mating strategy used by male olive baboon (Papio hamadryas anubis): description and outcomes


1Anthropology, Rutgers University, 2Anthropology, Center for Human Evolutionary Studies

Saturday 4:15-4:30, Grand Ballroom II Add to calendar

Recent studies indicate the potential evolutionary significance of alternative strategies across many taxa, including humans (Gangestad and Simpson 2000). Although sexual behavior is well studied in primates, the use and function of alternative mating strategies has received less attention in primates than in other taxa. In baboons, solo competition for consortships has been emphasized as the primary male mating strategy. Our study examined whether a conspicuous, but little-studied male behavior —persistent “following” (of consortships)—is an alternative mating strategy. Two habituated groups of olive baboons were studied from September 2009 to July 2010 in Kenya. We describe the behaviors surrounding 100 observed consort “takeovers” involving 24 adult males. Approximately 71% of such takeovers were executed by males who were followers of the targeted consortships. Moreover, the percentage of consort takeovers by followers increased (up to 92%) during the periods of likely ovulation. Although solo challenge accounted for 19% of takeovers, three other tactics were used by males: coalitionary challenge with another male (10%), and exploitation of both an abandoned consort female (34%) and another male’s challenge (37%). While both followers and nonfollowers used all four tactics, 89% of coalitionary challenge and solo takeovers were carried out by followers. The high percentage of takeovers by followers and the fact that both coalitionary and solo takeovers were primarily carried out by followers suggests that following is a critical part of the overall system of competition and challenge. These findings broaden our understanding of the nature of mate competition in male olive baboons.

NSF, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, Fulbright IIE, American Society of Primatologists, and Center for Human Evolutionary Studies

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