Article image

Guinea baboons give females more freedom and authority

New research led by the German Primate Center (DPZ) has found that Guinea baboons (Papio papio) live in equalitarian groups, with both males and females occasionally acting as leaders and managing to successfully initiate collective actions, such as departures for foraging.

Guinea baboons are one of the six species of baboons found in Africa. While the chacma, kinda, olive, and yellow baboons form uni-level societies, with groups consisting of several males, females, and youngsters, hamadrya and Guinea baboons form multi-level social organizations, with single males living with several females and their children in what researchers call “clans.” 

In the case of hamadrya baboons, male-male and male-female relationships tend to be characterized by competition and subordination, with males always playing the role of group leaders. By contrast, Guinea baboons seemed to form more fluid and equalitarian social organizations.

“We wanted to find out which individuals in Guinea baboons influence collective decisions like group departures,” said study co-author William O’Hearn, a doctoral student in Cognitive Ethology at DPZ. “We already know that in chacma, olive and yellow baboons, males and females lead the groups; in hamadryas baboons, it’s exclusively males. So it was interesting to ask what the situation is in Guinea baboons.” 

By observing a group of 131 Guinea baboons in the Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal over a period of two years, the researchers found that both sexes successfully initiated group departures and acted as group leaders. Moreover, during group progressions, bachelor males were predominantly found in the front of the group, while reproductively active males and females were observed with similar frequency across the whole group.

“The results of the study show that although Guinea baboons live in a similar social system as hamadryas baboons, they have a different leadership structure,” explained study co-author Julia Fischer, head of the Cognitive Ethology Laboratory at DPZ. 

“Social organization alone does not determine who leads the group. More important are the inter-sexual relationships among the animals. In Guinea baboons, females have a high degree of social and physical freedom and are less subordinate to males than in hamadryas baboons. This is reflected in their behavior during collective movement decisions.”

The study is published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day