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Genes affect mating success

Author: Jenny Tung and Susan Alberts

A consorting pair of baboons

Finding a mate can be complicated, especially when the process is colored by differences in social status, preferences, and relationship histories. Such is life, though, for baboons living together on the East African savannah—and, in a recent American Naturalist publication, ABRP researchers Jenny Tung, Susan Alberts, Jeanne Altmann, and colleagues have now shown that genetic make-up also contributes to the mix. Read More

Baboon groups have a home field advantage

Author: Catherine Markham

Amboseli baboons

Catherine Markham and collaborators recently found that baboon social groups benefit from a home field advantage when competing with their neighbors.  The paper was published in Animal Behaviour in August 2012, and used 9 years of behavioral data collected on 5 baboon social groups in Amboseli that have highly overlapping home ranges.  When direct conflict occurred between neighboring baboon groups, the winning group was predicted by both differences in the number of adult males in each group and long-term patterns of space use. Read More

Social status predicts wound healing in wild male baboons

Author: Elizabeth Archie

We recently published a paper in PNAS with results that are relevant to social status and health. The paper can be accessed here. The abstract is below.

Social status can have striking effects on health in humans and other animals, but the causes often are unknown. In male vertebrates, status-related differences in health may be influenced by correlates of male social status that suppress immune responses. Immunosuppressive correlates of low social status may include chronic social stress, poor physical condition, and old age; the immunosuppressive correlates of high status may include high testosterone and energetic costs of reproduction. Here we test whether these correlates could create status-related differences in immune function by measuring the incidence of illness and injury and then examining healing rates in a 27-y data set of natural injuries and illnesses in wild baboon males. We found no evidence that the high testosterone and intense reproductive effort associated with high rank suppress immune responses. Instead, high-ranking males were less likely to become ill, and they recovered more quickly than low-ranking males, even controlling for differences in age. Notably, alpha males, who experience high glucocorticoids, as well as the highest testosterone and reproductive effort, healed significantly faster than other males, even other high-ranking males. We discuss why alpha males seem to escape from the immunosuppressive costs of glucocorticoids but low-ranking males do not, including the idea that glucocorticoids’ effects depend on an individual’s physiological and social context. Read More