Divided destinies: group choice by female savannah baboons during social group fission
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Group living provides benefits to individuals while imposing costs on them. In species that live in permanent social groups, group division provides the only opportunity for nondispersing individuals to change their group membership and improve their benefit to cost ratio. We examined group choice by 81 adult female savannah baboons (Papio cynocephalus) during four fission events. We measured how each female’s group choice was affected by several factors: the presence of her maternal kin, paternal kin, age peers, and close social partners, her average kinship to groupmates, and her potential for improved dominance rank. Maternal kin, paternal kin, and close social partners influenced group choice by some females, but the relative importance of these factors varied across fissions. Age peers other than paternal kin had no effect on group choice, and average kinship to all groupmates had the same effect on group choice as did maternal kin alone. Most females were subordinate to fewer females after fissions than before, but status improvement did not drive female group choice; females often preferred to remain with social superiors who were their close maternal kin, rather than improving their own social ranks. We suggest that during permanent group fissions, female baboons prefer to remain with close maternal kin if those are abundant enough to influence their fitness; if they have too few close maternal kin then females prefer to remain with close paternal kin, and social bonds with nonkin might also become influential.