, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 67-77

Ecological and social determinants of spacing behaviour in desert baboon groups

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Abstract

This paper investigates the determinants of individual spacing behaviour in a desert baboon population (Papio cynocephalus ursinus). Patterns of neighbour proximity and neighbour density were examined among adults in four groups under different ecological and social conditions (through instantaneous sampling during focal follows). Initial analysis of these data shows that (1) the use of vertical substrates (refuges such as tall trees and cliff faces) can confound patterns of spacing, and (2) individual differences in spacing can depend on the spatial scale over which it is measured. To minimise these substrate and scale effects, this analysis focuses on animals which are off refuges and examines spacing behaviour through its underlying statistical `dimensions' (identified through factor analysis). Analysis of these dimensions indicates that sex, group size, activity-habitat and female reproductive state can all have independent effects on spacing: (1) males are more dispersed than females in smaller groups, (2) male and female dispersion increases with time spent in foraging habitats, and (3) female dispersion is reduced during lactation. According to the hypotheses tested, these results indicate that feeding competition only affects spacing behaviour during foraging while predation risk plays little or no role in spacing. Most aspects of spacing behaviour are best explained by male reproductive strategies and their social repercussions.

Received: 25 May 1998 / Accepted after revision: 18 July 1998