Extended male–female bonds and potential for prolonged paternal investment in a polygynandrous primate (Papio anubis)

Veronika Städele, Linda Vigilant, Shirley C. Strum, Joan B. Silk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Extended breeding bonds and direct paternal care are rare in group-living species with high levels of male–male competition. In polygynandrously mating savannah baboons, many males form close ties (primary associations) to certain females outside the mating context. These relationships have likely evolved as a form of male parenting effort because roughly 50–75% of primary associates are the sires of the females’ current infants. Mismatches between the formation of primary associations and paternity have been interpreted as kin recognition errors, which arise because males rely on imperfect proxies of paternity. Alternatively, mismatches may reflect prior paternity history if males form enduring relationships with the mothers of their offspring. We tested these hypotheses in a wild population of olive baboons, Papio anubis. The behaviour of sires near the time of conception was considerably different from the behaviour of nonsire primary associates, suggesting that most males were not misled by ambiguous behavioural cues of paternity. Instead, previous paternity history was an important predictor of the strength of ties between males and lactating females. Both paternity of the current infant and paternity of the previous infant influenced the probability that males would establish close ties to females, and these effects were largely additive. These findings indicate that male–female bonds in olive baboons extend long past lactation and suggest that selection may have favoured prolonged paternal investment in offspring.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31-40
Number of pages10
JournalAnimal Behaviour
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • friendship
  • kin recognition
  • olive baboon
  • paternal care
  • paternity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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