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Study: Baboons Are Cliquey and Promiscuous (Like Human Teenagers)

posted: 05/15/15
by: Danny Clemens
Two (gray, brown) adult baboons (sitting, facing) each other, baby baboon sitting between legs of each adult, trees in background.
Wolfgang Bayer/DCL

It just got a lot harder to make friends with a baboon.

A new study from Cambridge University reveals that baboons form tight-knit social groups with other baboons of similar social standing. Age, dominance and personality type all go into determining a baboon's social status; researchers call the behavior homophily, or 'love of the same'.

"This happens in humans all the time; we hang out with people who have the same income, religion, education, etc. Essentially, it's the same in baboons," said study lead author Dr. Alecia Carter.

The study focused particularly on measuring the varying stages of boldness in baboon personalities. Researchers placed unfamiliar foods near the baboon troops, and observed which baboons were bold and curious enough to venture after the unexpected snacks. Similarly curious baboons were more likely to associate with one another.

Researchers also found that gender played an interesting role in shaping the social interaction of baboons:

"Chacma baboon males will often commit infanticide, killing the babies of rivals. Female baboons try and get around this by being as promiscuous as possible to confuse the paternal identity - so males find it harder to tell if they are killing a rival's offspring or their own," added Carter.

Carter's study tracked two baboon traps during daylight hours in Namibia's Tsaobis Nature Park between 2009 and 2014, the longest-running study of its kind. The research is published in the current edition of the free journal Royal Society Open Science.

Click here for more information from Cambridge University

Learn more about baboons:

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