Ecology, feeding competition and social structure in baboons
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Predictions of the model of van Schaik (1989) of female-bonding in primates are tested by systematically comparing the ecology, level of within-group contest competition for food (WGC), and patterns of social behaviour found in two contrasting baboon populations. Significant differences were found in food distribution (percentage of the diet from clumped sources), feeding supplant rates and grooming patterns. In accord with the model, the tendencies of females to affiliate and form coalitions with one another, and to be philopatric, were strongest where ecological conditions promoted WGC. Group fission in the population with strong WGC was “horizontal” with respect to female dominance rank, and associated with female-female aggression during a period of elevated feeding competition. In contrast, where WGC was low, females’ grooming was focused on adult males rather than other females. Recent evidence suggests that group fission here is initiated by males, tends to result in the formation of one-male groups, and is not related to feeding competition but to male-male competition for mates. An ecological model of baboon social structure is presented which incorporates the effects of female-female competition, male-male competition, and predation pressure. The model potentially accounts for wide variability in group size, group structure and social relationships within the genus Papio. Socio-ecological convergence between common baboons and hamadryas baboons, however, may be limited in some respects by phylogenetic inertia.
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