Male tolerance and male-male bonds in a multilevel primate society


Male relationships in most species of mammals generally are characterized by intense intrasexual competition, with little bonding among unrelated individuals. In contrast, human societies are characterized by high levels of cooperation and strong bonds among both related and unrelated males. The emergence of cooperative male–male relationships has been linked to the multilevel structure of traditional human societies. Based on an analysis of the patterns of spatial and social interaction in combination with genetic relatedness data of wild Guinea baboons (Papio papio), we show that this species exhibits a multilevel social organization in which males maintain strong bonds and are highly tolerant of each other. Several “units” of males with their associated females form “parties,” which team up as “gangs.” Several gangs of the same “community” use the same home range. Males formed strong bonds predominantly within parties; however, these bonds were not correlated with genetic relatedness. Agonistic interactions were relatively rare and were restricted to a few dyads. Although the social organization of Guinea baboons resembles that of hamadryas baboons, we found stronger male–male affiliation and more elaborate greeting rituals among male Guinea baboons and less aggression toward females. Thus, the social relationships of male Guinea baboons differ markedly from those of other members of the genus, adding valuable comparative data to test hypotheses regarding social evolution. We suggest that this species constitutes an intriguing model to study the predictors and fitness benefits of male bonds, thus contributing to a better understanding of the evolution of this important facet of human social behavior.

PNAS 111(41): 14740–14745

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