Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 33, Issue 5, pp 313-318

First online:

Dominance rank, resource availability, and reproductive maturation in female savanna baboons

  • Fred B. BercovitchAffiliated withCaribbean Primate Research Center, University of Puerto Rico - Medical Sciences Campus
  • , Shirley C. StrumAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, University of California - San DiegoInstitute of Primate Research

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Ten years of data collected from a population of savanna baboons, Papio cynocephalus anubis, residing near Gilgil, Kenya were analyzed to ascertain the extent to which social and ecological factors influence reproductive maturation in females. First sexual swelling occurred at an average age of 4.79 years and first birth occurred at an average age of 6.92 years. Age at first menses was significantly correlated with age at first sexual swelling, but age at first sexual swelling was not a good predictor of age at first birth. The amount of rainfall in the 6 months preceding first sexual swelling and resource availability were significantly correlated with age at first sexual swelling. When ecological factors were taken into account, dominant females had an earlier age at onset of puberty, but not an earlier age at first birth, than did subordinate females. We suggest that nutritional and social stress operate at the same physiological level to disrupt GnRH pulsatility and retard reproductive maturation in some females. Given that socioecological variables modify the timing of life history events related to fitness in female baboons, the task for the future is to unravel how socioecological factors influence different life history components and generate variation in lifetime reproductive success.

Key words

Dominance Puberty First birth Savanna baboons Food availability Nest