Promiscuous baboons benefit from father's care

January 29, 2013 by Alex Peel
Young baboons that spend time with their fathers get better meals and reach sexual maturity sooner, scientists say
Baboons from the Tsaobis Nature Park.

Young baboons that spend time with their fathers get better meals and reach sexual maturity sooner, scientists say.

Previously, it was thought that male might find it difficult to recognise their own offspring.

But this latest research, by Dr Elise Huchard of Cambridge University and an international team of researchers, demonstrates for the first time how young baboons can benefit from intimate and fruitful relationships with their fathers.

'This has been a turning point in our understanding of how baboon fathers interact with their offspring,' says Huchard.

'The males could be spending their time pursuing other mating opportunities, so it is really surprising to see them having such close associations with their offspring.'

Baboons live in promiscuous societies in which one female will often mate with many males.

As a result, scientists thought that males would struggle to work out which offspring belonged to them.

To test this, Huchard and her colleagues started by capturing the baboons and identifying the fathers of each infant using .

The team trailed the baboons through the Tsaobis Nature Park in for up to 15 hours a day, closely monitoring their every move. Over time, they got to know the troop well.

Young baboons that spend time with their fathers get better meals and reach sexual maturity sooner, scientists say
An infant feeding.

'It's a fantastic experience. You are following each individual for little slices of their lives so you really get to know their personal stories,' says Huchard.

The team noticed that fathers tended to accompany their offspring most when they were feeding, often granting them access to richer food patches.

also spent more time with their father when there were other males around and when mother was out of sight, perhaps portraying a desire for protection.

The research is published in and was part-funded by a Natural Environment Research Council fellowship. The study is part of an on-going body of work towards understanding the ways in which baboons interact and thrive in promiscuous societies.

Explore further: Baboon beauties are more likely to get bullied

More information: Huchard, E. et al. Paternal effects on access to resources in a promiscuous primate society, Behavioral Ecology, 2012, doi:10.1093/beheco/ars158

Related Stories

Baboons follow the leader to breakfast

November 1, 2011

If you're trying to drum up a crowd to go out for a drink after work, you're more likely to succeed if you're popular. Otherwise, you'll probably be going to the pub on your own.

Baboons prefer dining with friends

July 6, 2011

Mealtimes can be a fraught business for the wild baboons of the Namib Desert. There's little food about, which means they have to share. Unsurprisingly, skirmishes often break out.

Recommended for you

New method to rapidly map the 'social networks' of proteins

June 26, 2017

Salk scientists have developed a new high-throughput technique to determine which proteins in a cell interact with each other. Mapping this network of interactions, or "interactome," has been slow going in the past because ...

Previously unknown extinction of marine megafauna discovered

June 26, 2017

Over two million years ago, a third of the largest marine animals like sharks, whales, sea birds and sea turtles disappeared. This previously unknown extinction event not only had a consid-erable impact on the earth's historical ...

Cloning thousands of genes for massive protein libraries

June 26, 2017

Discovering the function of a gene requires cloning a DNA sequence and expressing it. Until now, this was performed on a one-gene-at-a-time basis, causing a bottleneck. Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in collaboration ...

Discovery of a new mechanism for bacterial division

June 26, 2017

Most rod-shaped bacteria divide by splitting into two around the middle after their DNA has replicated safely and segregated to opposite ends of the cell. This seemingly simple process actually demands tight and precise coordination, ...

Lending plants a hand to survive drought

June 26, 2017

The findings have helped some plants survive 50 percent longer in drought conditions, and could eventually benefit major crops such as barley, rice and wheat, which are crucial to world food supplies.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.