Variation in personality and fitness in wild female baboons

Robert M. Seyfarth, Joan Silk, Dorothy L. Cheney

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91 Scopus citations


Studies of personality in nonhuman primates have usually relied on assessments by humans and seldom considered the function of the resulting "trait" classifications. In contrast, we applied exploratory principal component analysis to seven behaviors among 45 wild female baboons over 7 y to determinewhether the personality dimensions that emerged were associated with measures of reproductive success.We identified three relatively stable personality dimensions, each characterized by a distinct suite of behaviors that were not redundant with dominance rank or the availability of kin. Females scoringhighonthe "Nice" dimensionwere friendly to all females and often grunted to lower-ranking females to signal benign intent. "Aloof" femaleswere aggressive, less friendly, and grunted primarily to higher-ranking females. "Loner" females were often alone, relatively unfriendly, and also grunted most often to higher-ranking females. Aloof and Loner females were rarely approached by others. Personality dimensions were correlated in different ways with three measures previously shown to be associated with fitness: stress levels and two behavioral indices reflecting the closeness of dyadic bonds formed by individuals. Females who scored high on Nice had high composite sociality indices (CSI) and stable partner preferences, whereas females who scored high on Aloof had lower CSI scores but significantly more stable partner preferences. Loner females had significantly lower CSI scores, less stable partner preferences, and significantly higher glucocorticoid levels. It remains to be determined which of the Nice or Aloof personality dimensions is more adaptive, or whether variation is maintained by contrasting effects on fitness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16980-16985
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 16 2012

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