Saturday, October 31, 2009

Behavioral Synchronization In Chacma Baboons

There is a newly published paper by Andrew J. King and Guy Cowlishaw on factors that promote or constrain group synchronization among Chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in central Namibia. The paper "All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons" is available online as pdf for free.

 A mother and infant Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus). Flickr photo from Arno & Louise.

Synchronized behavior is defined as behavior performed by individuals in unison. For example, you can say that a group of animals moving through its environment is synchronized in the direction of the movement. Or a group of animals feeding is synchronized in its behavior. Synchronized behavior has its costs and benefits. Group synchronization is costly to achieve, and according to this article, due to age - sex differences, morphological - physiological differences, heterogeneous feeding terrain and visual isolation between group members. The benefit of group synchronization increases foraging benefits and reduces predation risk. A large group who travels together can easily find food or spot predators.

An example of synchronized behavior. A group of baboons traveling in a synchronized direction in Tanzania. Photo from Hole In The Donut Travels.

Interestingly, this research found that the probability of the group to synchronize increases with the number of pregnant females in the group but decreases with the number of sexually swollen females in the group. They think that females that are sexually swollen are not shy about advertising their receptivity to the males in the group. The males, in turn, would zealously guard these sexually swollen females from other males thus disrupting behavioral synchronization. Pregnant females, on the other hand, promotes group synchronization because individuals are not fighting or distracted by mating opportunities.

Read more from the press release, Brazen Baboons: Flighty Females Disrupt Group Harmony.

King, AJ. Cowlishaw, G. 2009. All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons. Elsevier Retrieved October 31, 2009, from 2009. Brazen Baboons: Flighty Females Disrupt Group Harmony. Retrieved October 31, 2009, from


BarbaraW said...

Hi! I am the woman who took the photo of the babboons traveling down the road in a row. It was an eerie experience. There were so many that our jeep had to stop in the middle of the road and let them stream by on eithr side. I was standing up in the open-top jeep, looking down. They were brazenly staring at me and chattering as they passed, and it ocurred to me how simpe it would have been for them to attack, wth such strength in numbers, had they felt they were in danger.

Raymond Vagell said...

Hi Barbara! I'm happy that you weren't harmed. Baboons are amazing and they would never attack ... unless of course they are being taunted or you have food around you. Great pic!