1School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, 2Department of Anthropology, University of California, San Diego
April 16, 2016 , Atrium Ballroom A/B
Comparative studies have revealed a wide range of life history and developmental patterns across species. Less attention, however, has been dedicated to the plasticity of these traits within species.
Savanna baboons exhibit clear markers of early development. Infants are born with black coats, which gradually transition to brown throughout development. Ten years of observational, demographic, and ecological data were collected from 154 olive baboon (Papio anubis) mother-infant dyads belonging to two groups from the eastern Laikipia Plateau of central Kenya. Although the groups are from the same region, their local habitats differ: one habitat is high quality and the other is lower quality. This difference in local ecology provided a unique opportunity for us to examine how both ecological and social factors relate to developmental variation within a population.
Comparing the two groups, infants from the higher quality habitat began the transition to an adult coat at an earlier age than those in the low quality habitat. In the lower quality habitat, infants of high-ranking females began to transition earlier than infants of lower ranking females. There was no maternal rank effect for individuals in the high quality habitat. Finally, infants who began to transition at a younger age took longer to complete the transition to an adult coat. Our results suggest that ecology plays an important role in early infant development. While maternal dominance rank also affects development, this effect is minimized in areas of greater resource availability.
Funding provided by Arizona State University, the National Geographic Society, Wildlife Conservation Society, Conservation International, African Conservation Fund, and the Dutch Government.