Social bonds of female baboons enhance infant survival

Science. 2003 Nov 14;302(5648):1231-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1088580.


Among nonhuman primates, females often form strong bonds with kin and other group members. These relationships are thought to have adaptive value for females, but direct effects of sociality on fitness have never been demonstrated. We present 16 years of behavioral data from a well-studied population of wild baboons, which demonstrate that sociality of adult females is positively associated with infant survival, an important component of variation in female lifetime fitness. The effects of sociality on infant survival are independent of the effects of dominance rank, group membership, and environmental conditions. Our results are consistent with the evidence that social support has beneficial effects on human health and well-being across the life span. For humans and other primates, sociality has adaptive value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Grooming
  • Hierarchy, Social
  • Kenya
  • Papio / physiology*
  • Papio / psychology*
  • Reproduction*
  • Social Behavior*
  • Social Dominance
  • Social Support
  • Survival Rate