Behaviour of adult and immature male baboons during inter-group encounters


SOCIAL interaction between groups of Old World monkeys varies from peaceful mingling to marked aggression1–3. One constant feature, however, concerns the differing behaviour of immature and adult males; and these differences have been related to differences in male reproductive success at different stages of the life cycle. Immature and young adult males in multi-male groups of baboons and macaques frequently approach and interact with individuals outside their natal group, sometimes transferring from one group to another4–7. Two suggested causes of such group transfer are inability to gain access to oestrous females in the natal group and attraction to oestrous females in other groups8. In contrast, adult males—both in species with one-male social units and in species with multi-male groups—are frequently aggressive during intergroup encounters, often chasing or ‘herding’ members of their own group away from other groups7,9,10. Herding usually involves high-ranking adult males who are also the individuals who copulate most often10,11. Males are most likely to herd adult females, but rarely herd females who are lactating10–12. (Although occasional herding in gelada baboon one-male units has been reported13). Herding has been suggested both to mobilise individuals before group movement7 and to maintain a male's access to oestrous females over time10. To investigate the function of herding we observed the intergroup encounters of one multi-male group of baboons for 15 months. Our observations suggest not only that herding is correlated with differences in male reproductive success but also that it is related to changes in the female reproductive cycle and to long-term bonds between particular males and females.

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CHENEY, D., SEYFARTH, R. Behaviour of adult and immature male baboons during inter-group encounters. Nature 269, 404–406 (1977).

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