Preparation and activation: determinants of age at reproductive maturity in male baboons


Journal Article

Age at maturity is a particularly important life history trait, but maturational data are rare for males in natural populations of mammals. Here we provide information on three maturational milestones and their social and demographic correlates among 43 wild male baboons, Papio cynocephalus, in a natural population in Amboseli National Park, Kenya. We examined (1) age at testicular enlargement, which signals puberty and the onset of subadulthood, (2) age at attainment of adult dominance rank, which we consider to be the beginning of adulthood, and (3) age at first sexual consortship, which is the best measure available for age at first reproduction in male baboons. Testicular enlargement (median age = 5.69 years) occurred earlier among sons of high ranking mothers, and was not influenced by rainfall or seasonality. Attainment of adult dominance rank (median age = 7.41 years) was also accelerated among sons of high-ranking mothers, and among males whose mothers had died while the males were juveniles. First sexual consortship (median age = 7.92 years) was not influenced directly by maternal characteristics, but attainment of adult dominance rank always preceded first consortship. The lag time between attainment of adult rank and first consortship (median = 2.5 months; range = 5-526 days), was predicted by the number of sexually cycling females in the group when the male attained rank, and by how high ranking the male became in his first months as an adult. We suggest that the age at which a male baboon is ready to begin reproducing is influenced by a relatively stable maternal characteristic that exerts its influence early in development, but the timing with which this potential is realized depends on activation by more proximate, often stochastic triggers such as female availability. This two-level organization of influences is likely to contribute to the variance both in age at first reproduction and in lifetime fitness. Differences in the relative magnitude of the two levels will lead to both intra- and interspecific variability in the opportunity for maternal selection and sexual selection. © 1995 Springer-Verlag.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Alberts, SC; Altmann, J

Published Date

  • June 1, 1995

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 36 / 6

Start / End Page

  • 397 - 406

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1432-0762

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0340-5443

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF00177335

Citation Source

  • Scopus