The ‘strength of weak ties’ among female baboons: fitness-related benefits of social bonds

McFarland, Richard, Murphy, Derek, Lusseau, David, Henzi, S. Peter, Parker, Jessica L., Pollet, Thomas and Barrett, Louise (2017) The ‘strength of weak ties’ among female baboons: fitness-related benefits of social bonds. Animal Behaviour, 126. pp. 101-106. ISSN 0003-3472

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Studies across a range of species have shown that sociability has positive fitness consequences. Among baboons, both increased infant survival and adult longevity have been associated with the maintenance of strong, equitable and durable social bonds. However, not all baboon populations show these patterns of bonding. South African chacma baboons, Papio ursinus, in the Drakensberg Mountains and De Hoop Nature Reserve show cyclical variation in social relations across time, with strong bonds formed only during certain times of the year. Using long-term data from the De Hoop baboons, we tested whether social relations influence female reproductive success in our study group in a manner similar to other baboon populations. Our results show that the number of strong bonds a female maintained predicted birth rate, and that the number of weak bonds a female possessed predicted infant 12-month survival and infant longevity. Fitness-related benefits of sociability were, however, independent of female dominance rank, and there was no relationship between the number of weak and strong bonds a female maintained. One possible explanation for the influence of weak as well as strong bonds in our study group may be that variation in demographic and ecological conditions across populations may favour the use of different social strategies by females. In our sample, weak bonds as well as strong bonds appear to be instrumental to achieving fitness-related benefits.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding information: Thanks to Cape Nature Conservation for permission to work at De Hoop, and to all the graduate students and field assistants who contributed to our long-term database. L.B. was supported by Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Canada Research Chair and Discovery (340935/2013) Programs. S.P.H. was supported by the National Research Foundation (NRF, South Africa) and NSERC Discovery Grants during the writing of this manuscript. We are grateful to one anonymous referee and, in particular, Lauren Brent for invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of our manuscript.
Uncontrolled Keywords: baboon, dominance rank, fitness, reproduction, sociability, survival
Subjects: C800 Psychology
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: Becky Skoyles
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2017 10:46
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2022 11:26

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