Update on Baboon buddies

So my last post dealt with baboons making male/female relationships. The authors of the paper basically said because the dudes weren’t getting sex out of the females they didn’t see what the males were getting out of it. The females did get harassed less.

WELL, I just happened to be listening to an archived episode of Radiolab, probably a couple of years old, and they interviewed Robert Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and a studier of all things stressful. Sapolsky primary animal of study is baboons. In this interview, Sapolsky discussed this same phenomenon, where males will hang out with females, not for sex, just for companionship. Sapolsky actually seemed to imply that the males got more out of the relationships than the femmes. Why:

1. The males WERE in fact having sex more frequently with females in this troop of baboons.
2. When a dominant male gets old and loses his status, he is in essence drummed out of the troop, about half the time fleeing to a new troop where he is still lower on the totem pole but less harassed overall. HOWEVER, the half that don’t leave the troop are the ones who formed friendships with the females.

Ha ha! Having females as your allies is a political and evolutionary good idea for baboons. So it works out well for everyone involved.

There are probably different cultures of baboon troops, but it’s nice to know that at least for some male baboons it pays to have female friends.