Original Paper

Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 62, Issue 6, pp 1027-1035

First online:

Friendships between males and lactating females in a free-ranging group of olive baboons (Papio hamadryas anubis): evidence from playback experiments

  • A. LemassonAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie-Evolution-Ecologie, UMR 6552 – C.N.R.S., Université de Rennes 1 Email author 
  • , R. A. PalombitAffiliated withDepartment of Anthropology, Center for Human Evolutionary Studies, Rutgers University
  • , R. JubinAffiliated withLaboratoire d’Ethologie-Evolution-Ecologie, UMR 6552 – C.N.R.S., Université de Rennes 1

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Close association between an anoestrous female at the time of lactation and adult male(s) is relatively rare in mammals, but common in baboons (Papio hamadryas subsp.). The functional significance of these “friendships” remains unclear, however. In chacma baboons (P. h. griseipes), friendships are a counter-strategy to infanticide by immigrant males. Experimental playback of female distress calls in chacma baboons revealed that male friends are more motivated to protect females and infants than are control males. Olive baboons (P. h. anubis) also exhibit friendships, but infanticide is rare, suggesting that friendships provide females with protection from non-lethal aggression (anti-harassment hypothesis) or serve to promote male–infant bonds that later benefit the maturing juvenile (future male caretaker hypothesis). We replicated these playback experiments on a group of olive baboons to test between these hypotheses and to evaluate if the lower costs of non-lethal harassment lessens male protective responsiveness relative to protection from (more costly) infanticide. Spatial data revealed that most lactating females had one to four friend males. Relative to non-friends, friend dyads were characterized by higher rates of allogrooming and infant handling, but less agonism. Female rank was correlated with the number of male friends. Just as in chacma baboons, playback of female screams elicited stronger responses from male friends than control males in support the anti-harassment hypothesis. Compared to the chacma baboon, male olive baboons appeared to exhibit similarly high levels of protective solicitude for female friends although they protect against non-lethal harassment rather than infanticide.


Friendship Infanticide Lactation Playback Olive baboons