Social relationships among adult female baboons (papio cynocephalus) I. Variation in the strength of social bonds

Joan B. Silk, Jeanne Altmann, Susan C. Alberts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

330 Scopus citations


Sociality has positive effects on female fitness in many mammalian species. Among female baboons, those who are most socially integrated reproduce most successfully. Here we test a number of predictions derived from kin selection theory about the strength of social bonds among adult female baboons. Our analyses are based on systematic observations of grooming and association patterns among 118 females living in seven different social groups in the Amboseli Basin of Kenya over a 16-year period. Females in these groups formed the strongest bonds with close kin, including their mothers, daughters, and maternal and paternal sisters. Females were also strongly attracted toward females who were close to their own age, perhaps because peers were often paternal sisters. Females' bonds with their maternal sisters were strengthened after their mother's deaths, whereas their relationships with their maternal aunts were weakened after their mother's death. In addition, females formed stronger bonds with their paternal sisters when no close maternal kin were available, and they compensated for the absence of any close kin by forming strong bonds with nonrelatives. Taken together, these data suggest that social bonds play a vital role in females' lives, and the ability to establish and maintain strong social bonds may have important fitness consequences for females.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-195
Number of pages13
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Dominance
  • Friendship
  • Kin selection
  • Nepotism
  • Peer relationships
  • Social bonds

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


Dive into the research topics of 'Social relationships among adult female baboons (papio cynocephalus) I. Variation in the strength of social bonds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this