A Pacific Culture among Wild Baboons: Its Emergence and Transmission
Robert M. Sapolsky1,2*, Lisa J. Share1
1 Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Neurology and Neurological Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California, United States of America, 2 Institute of Primate Research, National Museums of Kenya Karen, Nairobi, Kenya
PLoS Biol 2(4): e106. An open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.
Reports exist of transmission of culture in nonhuman primates. We examine this in a troop of savanna baboons studied since 1978. During the mid-1980s, half of the males died from tuberculosis; because of circumstances of the outbreak, it was more aggressive males who died, leaving a cohort of atypically unaggressive survivors. A decade later, these behavioral patterns persisted. Males leave their natal troops at adolescence; by the mid-1990s, no males remained who had resided in the troop a decade before. Thus, critically, the troop's unique culture was being adopted by new males joining the troop. We describe (a) features of this culture in the behavior of males, including high rates of grooming and affiliation with females and a “relaxed” dominance hierarchy; (b) physiological measures suggesting less stress among low-ranking males; (c) models explaining transmission of this culture; and (d) data testing these models, centered around treatment of transfer males by resident females.
Abbreviations: SEM, standard error of the mean