The Social and Ecological Flexibility of Guinea Baboons: Implications for Guinea Baboon Social Organization and Male Strategies

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Chapter Summary

The social organization and behavioral ecology of Guinea baboons is poorly understood compared to other baboon taxa. Most data contributing to our current knowledge of their behavior come from either very short field studies or captive populations. In this chapter, we attempt to augment the knowledge base of Guinea baboon behavior with data from a wild population of Guinea baboons inhabiting the Niokolo Koba National Park in Senegal.

Our results indicate that Guinea baboons have adapted to a wide range of habitats with many different climates and that they vary in their social structure over time depending on habitat and season. Apparently, Guinea baboons have a multilevel social structure that is superficially similar to that seen in hamadryas baboons. The basic social group is the one-male unit, but when necessary these small groups aggregate into successively larger groups. This may occur through a combination of female flexibility and malemale tolerance and cooperation. Fission and fusion of groups during the day are components of foraging and antipredation strategies. Seasonal changes are also possible, as the number of individuals in each of the intermediate group structures is flexible as well. In this way Guinea baboons optimize their group size given their highly variable habitat without placing undue demands on individual social time budgets and risking permanent fragmentation of the one-male unit. It seems likely that Guinea baboon social organization has evolved independently into a multilevel structure that is different from both hamadryas baboons and other savanna baboons. Moreover, Guinea baboons are unique in their response to the demands of the diversity of West African habitats.