Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 2, pp 183–195 | Cite as

Social relationships among adult female baboons (papio cynocephalus) I. Variation in the strength of social bonds

Original Article


Sociality has positive effects on female fitness in many mammalian species. Among female baboons, those who are most socially integrated reproduce most successfully. Here we test a number of predictions derived from kin selection theory about the strength of social bonds among adult female baboons. Our analyses are based on systematic observations of grooming and association patterns among 118 females living in seven different social groups in the Amboseli Basin of Kenya over a 16-year period. Females in these groups formed the strongest bonds with close kin, including their mothers, daughters, and maternal and paternal sisters. Females were also strongly attracted toward females who were close to their own age, perhaps because peers were often paternal sisters. Females’ bonds with their maternal sisters were strengthened after their mother’s deaths, whereas their relationships with their maternal aunts were weakened after their mother’s death. In addition, females formed stronger bonds with their paternal sisters when no close maternal kin were available, and they compensated for the absence of any close kin by forming strong bonds with nonrelatives. Taken together, these data suggest that social bonds play a vital role in females’ lives, and the ability to establish and maintain strong social bonds may have important fitness consequences for females.


Social bonds Nepotism Kin selection Friendship Dominance Peer relationships 



We thank the Office of the President of Kenya and the Kenya Wildlife Service for permission to work in Amboseli. The staff of Amboseli National Park provided valuable cooperation. The members of the pastoralist communities of Amboseli and Longido and the Institute for Primate Research in Nairobi provided local sponsorship. We thank R.S. Mututua, S.N. Sayialel, and J.K. Warutere for their expert assistance in data collection, and S. Combes and D. Onderdonk for database support. Jason Buchan, Russ Van Horn, and Kerri Smith performed genetic analyses for assignment of paternal kin. We appreciate valuable comments on the manuscript from Louise Barrett, Bernard Chapais, Dorothy Cheney, and Robert Seyfarth, and Anja Widdig. This project was supported by grants to J.B.S. from the National Geographic Society, the L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, the UCLA Academic Senate, and the National Science Foundation (BCS-0003245); by grants to J.A. by the Chicago Zoological Society and the National Science Foundation (IBN-9985910 and its predecessors); and by a grant to S.C.A. from the National Science Foundation (IBN-0322613). This research protocol was approved by the Chancellor’s Animal Research Committee of the Office of the Protection of Research Subjects at the University of California, Los Angeles (ARC no. 99-075-02). The final drafts of this paper were prepared when J.B.S. was visiting the Large Animal Research Group in the Department of Zoology and the Leverhulme Center for Human Evolutionary Studies at the University of Cambridge. She thanks her hosts for their hospitality and fellowship.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joan B. Silk
    • 1
  • Jeanne Altmann
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Susan C. Alberts
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Conservation BiologyBrookfield ZooBrookfieldUSA
  4. 4.National Museums of KenyaInstitute for Primate ResearchNairobiKenya
  5. 5.Department of BiologyDuke UniversityDurhamUSA

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