, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 147-172

Social relationships and ritualized greetings in adult male baboons (Papio cynocephalus anubis)

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Abstract

Greetings involving exchanges of ritualized sexual gestures are a common form of interaction among adult male baboons, although relatively little attention has been paid to them. In this study, we investigate how greetings reflect important aspects of the male's social relationships, including dominance rank, age/residence status, and cooperative tendencies. The results are based on over 600 greetings among 12 adult males recorded during a 4-month study of a troop of wild olive baboons near Gilgil, Kenya. Four of the adult males were older, lower-ranking, long-term residents, which frequently formed coalitions to take estrous females away from the eight young, higher-ranking males. Virtually all dyads greeted: greetings occurred more than twice as often as other types of male-male interactions; and nearly all greetings occurred in a neutral context, in which there was no resource at stake. The percentage of greetings completed, the frequency with which different gestures were employed, and the roles adopted by each male varied significantly across old-old, old-young, and young-young dyads. Greetings between young adult males were often interrupted or actively resisted, consistent with their unstable and ambiguous dominance relationships. Greetings between old-old dyads were usually completed and appeared consistent with their cooperative relationships. One pair of old males formed a stable, reciprocal coalition against young males, and this pair's greetings showed remarkable symmetry of roles. Greetings, we hypothesize, function to allow males to negotiate important aspects of their relationships, including cooperation.