, Volume 63, Issue 10, pp 1471-1482,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 03 Jun 2009

Paternity alone does not predict long-term investment in juveniles by male baboons

Abstract

Adult male chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) form preferential associations, or friendships, with particular lactating females. Males exhibit high levels of affiliative contact with their friends’ infants and defend them from potentially infanticidal attacks (Palombit et al. 1997). Little is known about males’ associations with juveniles once they have passed the period of infanticidal risk. We conducted an observational, experimental, and genetic study of adult male and juvenile chacma baboons in the Moremi Reserve, Botswana. We identified preferential associations between males and juveniles and used behavioral data and a playback experiment to explore whether those associations have potential fitness benefits for juveniles. We determined whether males preferentially invest in care of their own offspring. We also determined how often males invest in care of their former friends’ offspring. The majority of juveniles exhibited preferential associations with one or two males, who had almost always been their mother’s friend during infancy. However, in only a subset of these relationships was the male the actual father, in part because many fathers died or disappeared before their offspring were weaned. Male caretakers intervened on behalf of their juvenile associates in social conflicts more often than they intervened on behalf of unconnected juveniles, and they did not appear to differentiate between genetic offspring and unrelated associates. Playbacks of juveniles’ distress calls elicited a stronger response from their caretakers than from control males. Chacma males may provide care to unrelated offspring of former friends because the costs associated with such care are low compared with the potentially high fitness costs of refusing aid to a juvenile who is a possible offspring.

Communicated by S. Alberts