Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Chacma Baboon


Social information allows the rapid dissemination of novel information among individuals. However, an individual’s ability to use information is likely to be dependent on phenotypic constraints operating at three successive steps: acquisition, application, and exploitation. We tested this novel framework by quantifying the sequential process of social information use with experimental food patches in wild baboons (Papio ursinus). We identified phenotypic constraints at each step of the information use sequence: peripheral individuals in the proximity network were less likely to acquire and apply social information, while subordinate females were less likely to exploit it successfully. Social bonds and personality also played a limiting role along the sequence. As a result of these constraints, the average individual only acquired and exploited social information on.

Concepts: Person, Old World monkey, Baboon, Fibonacci number, Chacma Baboon


A range of species exploit anthropogenic food resources in behaviour known as ‘raiding’. Such behavioural flexibility is considered a central component of a species' ability to cope with human-induced environmental changes. Here, we study the behavioural processes by which raiding male chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) exploit the opportunities and mitigate the risks presented by raiding in the suburbs of Cape Town, South Africa. Ecological sampling and interviews conducted with ‘rangers’ (employed to manage the baboons' space use) revealed that baboons are at risk of being herded out of urban spaces that contain high-energy anthropogenic food sources. Baboon-attached motion/GPS tracking collars showed that raiding male baboons spent almost all of their time at the urban edge, engaging in short, high-activity forays into the urban space. Moreover, activity levels were increased where the likelihood of deterrence by rangers was greater. Overall, these raiding baboons display a time-activity balance that is drastically altered in comparison to individuals living in more remote regions. We suggest our methods can be used to obtain precise estimates of management impact for this and other species in conflict with people.

Concepts: Risk, Old World monkey, Baboon, Hamadryas Baboon, Chacma Baboon


Sexual violence occurring in the context of long-term heterosexual relationships, such as sexual intimidation, is widespread across human populations [1-3]. However, its evolutionary origins remain speculative because few studies have investigated the existence of comparable forms of sexual coercion in animals [4, 5], in which repeated male aggression toward a female provides the aggressor with delayed mating benefits [6]. Here, we test whether male aggression toward females functions as sexual coercion in wild chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). We found support for all three main predictions of the sexual coercion hypothesis [7]: male aggression (1) is greatest against cycling females, (2) is costly and represents the main source of injuries for cycling females, and (3) increases male mating success with their victims in the future. Detailed analysis of chronological sequences between aggression and matings ruled out other coercive mechanisms, such as short-term harassment and punishment, by showing that aggression and matings are temporally decoupled. This decoupling may explain why some forms of sexual violence have been largely overlooked in well-studied animal populations despite their likely impact on the fitness of both sexes. Finally, we found no support for alternative hypotheses such as a female preference for aggressive malesĀ [8, 9]. This new, detailed study of the forms and intensity of sexual intimidation in a wild primate suggests that it may be widespread across mammalian societies, with important implications for understanding the evolution of mate choice and sexual conflict in mammals, as well as the origins of human sexual violence.

Concepts: Human, Male, Female, Sex, Primate, Mating, Baboon, Chacma Baboon


When foraging in a social group, individuals are faced with the choice of sampling their environment directly or exploiting the discoveries of others. The evolutionary dynamics of this trade-off have been explored mathematically through the producer-scrounger game, which has highlighted socially exploitative behaviours as a major potential cost of group living. However, our understanding of the tight interplay that can exist between social dominance and scrounging behaviour is limited. To date, only two theoretical studies have explored this relationship systematically, demonstrating that because scrounging requires joining a competitor at a resource, it should become exclusive to high-ranking individuals when resources are monopolisable. In this study, we explore the predictions of this model through observations of the natural social foraging behaviour of a wild population of chacma baboons (Papio ursinus). We collected data through over 800 h of focal follows of 101 adults and juveniles across two troops over two 3-month periods. By recording over 7,900 social foraging decisions at two spatial scales we show that, when resources are large and economically indefensible, the joining behaviour required for scrounging can occur across all social ranks. When, in contrast, dominant individuals can aggressively appropriate a resource, such joining behaviour becomes increasingly difficult to employ with decreasing social rank because adult individuals can only join others lower ranking than themselves. Our study supports theoretical predictions and highlights potentially important individual constraints on the ability of individuals of low social rank to use social information, driven by competition with dominant conspecifics over monopolisable resources.

Concepts: Scientific method, Primate, Ranking, Exploitation, Old World monkey, Baboon, RANK, Chacma Baboon


Although vocal production in non-human primates is highly constrained, individuals appear to have some control over whether to call or remain silent. We investigated how contextual factors affect the production of grunts given by wild female chacma baboons, Papio ursinus, during social interactions. Females grunted as they approached other adult females 28% of the time. Supporting previous research, females were much more likely to grunt to mothers with young infants than to females without infants. Grunts also significantly increased the likelihood of affiliative interactions among all partners. Notably, however, grunts did not simply mirror existing social bonds. Instead, they appeared to perform a very different function: namely, to serve as signals of benign intent between partners whose relationship is not necessarily close or predictable. Females were less likely to grunt to their mothers or adult daughters-the individuals with whom they shared the closest and least aggressive bonds-than to other females. In contrast, patterns of grunting between sisters were similar to those between nonkin, perhaps reflecting sisters' more ambivalent relationships. Females grunted at higher rates to lower-ranking, than to higher-ranking, females, supporting the hypothesis that grunts do not simply signal the signaler’s level of arousal or anxiety about receiving aggression, but instead function as signals of benign intent. Taken together, results suggest that the grunts given by female baboons serve to reduce uncertainty about the likely outcome of an interaction between partners whose relationship is not predictably affiliative. Despite their limited vocal repertoire, baboons appear to be skilled at modifying call production in different social contexts and for different audiences.

Concepts: Human, Female, Sociology, Primate, Old World monkey, Baboon, Hamadryas Baboon, Chacma Baboon


In multi-male, multi-female groups of mammals, males usually compete aggressively over access to females. However, species vary in the intensity of male contest competition, which has been linked to differences in testosterone and glucocorticoid profiles. Chacma (Papio ursinus) and Guinea (P. papio) baboons constitute an intriguing model to examine variation in male competition and male endocrine correlates, because of the differences in their social systems. Chacma baboons live in stable female-bonded groups with linear male dominance hierarchies and a high male mating skew, whereas Guinea baboons live in male-bonded, multi-level societies. We recorded male behavior and assayed testosterone (fT) and glucocorticoid metabolite (fGC) levels from fecal samples in one population of each species. Male chacma baboons were more frequently involved in agonistic interactions, and dominance relationships were more consistent than in Guinea baboons, where we could not detect linear hierarchies. Notably, male chacma baboons were also more aggressive towards females, indicating an overall higher aggressiveness in this species. In contrast, male Guinea baboons showed higher levels of affiliative interactions and spatial tolerance. High-ranking and consorting male chacma baboons showed elevated fGC levels and also tended to show elevated fT levels, but there was no effect of consortship in Guinea baboons. Agonism was not related to hormone levels in either species. Thus, predictors of fT and fGC levels in Guinea baboons seem to differ from chacma baboons. Our results support the view that different social systems create differential selection pressures for male aggression, reflected by different hormone profiles.

Concepts: Human, Gender, Aggression, Relational aggression, Social rejection, Old World monkey, Baboon, Chacma Baboon


Strong social bonds can make an important contribution to individual fitness, but we still have only a limited understanding of the temporal period relevant to the adjustment of social relationships. While there is growing recognition of the importance of strong bonds that persist for years, social relationships can also vary over weeks and months, suggesting that social strategies may be optimized over shorter timescales. Using biological market theory as a framework, we explore whether temporal variation in the benefits of social relationships might be sufficient to generate daily adjustments of social strategies in wild baboons. Data on grooming, one measure of social relationships, were collected from 60 chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) across two troops over a six month period. Our analyses suggest that social strategies can show diurnal variation, with subordinates preferentially grooming more dominant individuals earlier in the day compared with later in the day. These findings indicate that group-living animals may optimize certain elements of their social strategies over relatively short time periods.

Concepts: Old World monkey, Baboon, Chacma Baboon


The ability of Baboons (papio papio) to distinguish between English words and nonwords has been modeled using a deep learning convolutional network model that simulates a ventral pathway in which lexical representations of different granularity develop. However, given that pigeons (columba livia), whose brain morphology is drastically different, can also be trained to distinguish between English words and nonwords, it appears that a less species-specific learning algorithm may be required to explain this behavior. Accordingly, we examined whether the learning model of Rescorla and Wagner, which has proved to be amazingly fruitful in understanding animal and human learning could account for these data. We show that a discrimination learning network using gradient orientation features as input units and word and nonword units as outputs succeeds in predicting baboon lexical decision behavior-including key lexical similarity effects and the ups and downs in accuracy as learning unfolds-with surprising precision. The models performance, in which words are not explicitly represented, is remarkable because it is usually assumed that lexicality decisions, including the decisions made by baboons and pigeons, are mediated by explicit lexical representations. By contrast, our results suggest that in learning to perform lexical decision tasks, baboons and pigeons do not construct a hierarchy of lexical units. Rather, they make optimal use of low-level information obtained through the massively parallel processing of gradient orientation features. Accordingly, we suggest that reading in humans first involves initially learning a high-level system building on letter representations acquired from explicit instruction in literacy, which is then integrated into a conventionalized oral communication system, and that like the latter, fluent reading involves the massively parallel processing of the low-level features encoding semantic contrasts.

Concepts: Parallel computing, Primate, Learning, Old World monkey, Baboon, Hamadryas Baboon, Guinea Baboon, Chacma Baboon


Anthropogenic noise is an evolutionarily novel and widespread pollutant in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Despite increasing evidence that the additional noise generated by human activities can affect vocal communication, the majority of research has focused on the use of conspecific acoustic information, especially sexual signals. Many animals are known to eavesdrop on the alarm calls produced by other species, enhancing their likelihood of avoiding predation, but how this use of heterospecific information is affected by anthropogenic noise has received little empirical attention. Here, we use two field-based playback experiments on a habituated wild population of dwarf mongooses (Helogale parvula) to determine how anthropogenic noise influences the response of foragers to heterospecific alarm calls. We begin by demonstrating that dwarf mongooses respond appropriately to the alarm calls of sympatric chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) and tree squirrels (Paraxerus cepapi); fleeing only to the latter. We then show that mongoose foragers are less likely to exhibit this flee response to tree squirrel alarm calls during road-noise playback compared to ambient-sound playback. One explanation for the change in response is that noise-induced distraction or stress result in maladaptive behaviour. However, further analysis revealed that road-noise playback results in increased vigilance and that mongooses showing the greatest vigilance increase are those that do not subsequently exhibit a flee response to the alarm call. These individuals may therefore be acting appropriately: if the greater gathering of personal information indicates the absence of an actual predator despite an alarm call, the need to undertake costly fleeing behaviour can be avoided. Either way, our study indicates the potential for anthropogenic noise to interfere with the use of acoustic information from other species, and suggests the importance of considering how heterospecific networks are affected by this global pollutant.

Concepts: Squirrel, Mongoose, Mongooses, Baboon, Mammals of Africa, Chacma Baboon, Common Dwarf Mongoose, Helogale


Episodic-like memory tests often aid in determining an animal’s ability to recall the what, where, and which (context) of an event. To date, this type of memory has been demonstrated in humans, wild chacma baboons, corvids (Scrub jays), humming birds, mice, rats, Yucatan minipigs, and cuttlefish. The potential for this type of memory in zebrafish remains unexplored even though they are quickly becoming an essential model organism for the study of a variety of human cognitive and mental disorders. Here we explore the episodic-like capabilities of zebrafish (Danio rerio) in a previously established mammalian memory paradigm. We demonstrate that when zebrafish were presented with a familiar object in a familiar context but a novel location within that context, they spend more time in the novel quadrant. Thus, zebrafish display episodic-like memory as they remember what object they saw, where they saw it (quadrant location), and on which occasion (yellow or blue walls) it was presented.

Concepts: Psychology, Human, Biology, Fish, Model organism, Zebrafish, Danio kyathit, Chacma Baboon