It helps to have friends, whether human or baboon. Studies have shown that robust social networks lead to better health and longer lives for both species. Now, a team of University of Pennsylvania researchers has helped show that baboon personality plays a role in these outcomes, and, like people, some baboons' personalities are better suited to making and keeping friends than others.
The research was conducted by psychology professor Robert Seyfarth and biology professor Dorothy Cheney, both of Penn's School of Arts and Sciences. They collaborated with the Arizona State University's Joan Silk.
Their work was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Seyfarth and Cheney, along with their colleagues and students, have spent the last 17 years observing a group of baboons living in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, studying the biological roots of their social dynamics. As with many other primates, baboon societies are strongly hierarchical. Females "inherit" their dominance ranks from their mothers and enjoy priority of access to food and mates. But high-ranking females do not always have greater reproductive success than low-ranking females. This suggests that, when it comes to evolutionary success, the inherited advantage of high rank can't explain everything.