Social influences on survival and reproduction: Insights from a long-term study of wild baboons.
For social species, the environment has two components: physical and social. The social environment modifies the individual's interaction with the physical environment, and the physical environment may in turn impact individuals' social relationships. This interplay can generate considerable variation among individuals in survival and reproduction. Here, I synthesize more than four decades of research on the baboons of the Amboseli basin in southern Kenya to illustrate how social and physical environments interact to affect reproduction and survival. For immature baboons, social behaviour can both mitigate and exacerbate the challenge of survival. Only c. 50% of live-born females and c. 44% of live-born males reach the median age of first reproduction. Variation in pre-adult survival, growth and development is associated with multiple aspects of the social environment. For instance, conspecifics provide direct care and are a major source of social knowledge about food and the environment, but conspecifics can also represent a direct threat to survival through infanticide. In adulthood, both competition (within and between social groups) and cooperative affiliation (i.e. collective action and/or the exchange of social resources such as grooming) are prominent features of baboon social life and have important consequences for reproduction and survival. For instance, adult females with higher social dominance ranks have accelerated reproduction, and adult females that engage in more frequent affiliative social interactions have higher survival throughout adulthood. The early life environment also has important consequences for adult reproduction and survival, as in a number of other bird and mammal species. In seasonal breeders, early life effects often apply to entire cohorts; in contrast, in nonseasonal and highly social species such as baboons, early life effects are more individual-specific, stemming from considerable variation not only in the early physical environment (even if they are born in the same year) but also in the particulars of their social environment.
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