Male Baboons That Have Close Female Friends Live Longer (Biology / Animals)

People who are more socially integrated or have higher socio-economic status live longer. Recent studies in non-human primates show striking convergences with this human pattern: female primates with more social partners, stronger social bonds or higher dominance rank all lead longer lives.

Drawing on 35 years of data, a new study of more than 540 baboons in Amboseli National Park in Kenya finds that male baboons that have close female friends have higher rates of survival than those who don’t.

However, it remains unclear whether social environments also predict survival in male non-human primates, as it does in men. This gap persists because, in most primates, males disperse among social groups, resulting in many males who disappear with unknown fate and have unknown dates of birth.

Researchers in this study presented a Bayesian model to estimate the effects of time-varying social covariates on age-specific adult mortality in both sexes of wild baboons. They compared how the survival trajectories of both sexes are linked to social bonds and social status over the life.

And what they found? They found that, parallel to females, male baboons who are more strongly bonded to females have longer lifespans. However, males with higher dominance rank for their age appear to have shorter lifespans. This finding brings new understanding to the adaptive significance of heterosexual social bonds for male baboons: in addition to protecting the male’s offspring from infanticide, these bonds may have direct benefits to males themselves.

References: Fernando A. Campos et al. Social bonds, social status and survival in wild baboons: a tale of two sexes, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2020). DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2019.0621 link: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0621

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