International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 210-225

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The Influence of Social Systems on Patterns of Mitochondrial DNA Variation in Baboons

  • G. H. KoppAffiliated withCognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center Email author 
  • , M. J. Ferreira da SilvaAffiliated withSchool of Biosciences, Cardiff University, CardiffCIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto
  • , J. FischerAffiliated withCognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center
  • , J. C. BritoAffiliated withCIBIO/InBio, Centro de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Recursos Genéticos, Universidade do Porto
  • , S. RegnautAffiliated withWild Chimpanzee Foundation, c/o Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary AnthropologyIUCN-PACO
  • , C. RoosAffiliated withGene Bank of Primates and Primate Genetics Laboratory, German Primate Center
  • , D. ZinnerAffiliated withCognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center


Behavior is influenced by genes but can also shape the genetic structure of natural populations. Investigating this link is of great importance because behavioral processes can alter the genetic diversity on which selection acts. Gene flow is one of the main determinants of the genetic structure of a population and dispersal is the behavior that mediates gene flow. Baboons (genus Papio) are among the most intensely studied primate species and serve as a model system to investigate the evolution of social systems using a comparative approach. The general mammalian pattern of male dispersal and female philopatry has thus far been found in baboons, with the exception of hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas). As yet, the lack of data on Guinea baboons (Papio papio) creates a taxonomic gap in genus-wide comparative analyses. In our study we investigated the sex-biased dispersal pattern of Guinea baboons in comparison to hamadryas, olive, yellow, and chacma baboons using sequences of the maternally transmitted mitochondrial hypervariable region I. Analyzing whole-range georeferenced samples (N = 777), we found strong evidence for female-biased gene flow in Guinea baboons and confirmed this pattern for hamadryas baboons, as shown by a lack of genetic-geographic structuring. In addition, most genetic variation was found within and not among demes, in sharp contrast to the pattern observed in matrilocal primates including the other baboon taxa. Our results corroborate the notion that the Guinea baboons’ social system shares some important features with that of hamadryas baboons, suggesting similar evolutionary forces have acted to distinguish them from all other baboons.


Genetic population structure Hypervariable region I Papio Sex-biased dispersal Social system