• male reproductive strategies;
  • alternative strategies;
  • alternative tactics;
  • conditional strategy;
  • female defense polygyny;
  • female transfer;
  • male competition


The nested one-male units (OMUs) of the hamadryas baboon are part of a complex social system in which “leader” males achieve near exclusive mating access by forcibly herding females into permanent consortships. Within this multi-level social system (troops, bands, clans and OMUs) are two types of prereproductive males—the follower and solitary male—whose different trajectories converge on the leader role. Here we compare OMU formation strategies of followers, who associate with a particular OMU and may have social access to females, with those of solitary males, who move freely within the band and do not associate regularly with OMUs. Data were derived from 42 OMU formations (16 by followers and 26 by solitary males) occurring over 8 years in a hamadryas baboon band at the Filoha site in Ethiopia. “Initial units” (IUs) with sexually immature females (IU strategy) were formed by 44% of followers and 46% of solitary males. The remaining followers took over mature females when their leader was deposed (challenge strategy) or disappeared (opportunistic strategy), or via a seemingly peaceful transfer (inheritance strategy). Solitary males took over mature females from other clans and bands, but mainly from old, injured or vanished leaders within their clan (via both the challenge and opportunistic strategies). Former followers of an OMU were more successful at taking over females from those OMUs than any other category of male. Despite this advantage enjoyed by ex-follower leaders, ex-solitary leaders were equally capable of increasing their OMU size at a comparable rate in their first 2 years as a leader. These results demonstrate the potential for males to employ both multiple roles (follower vs. solitary male) and multiple routes (IU, inheritance, challenge, opportunistic) to acquire females and become a leader male in a mating system characterized by female defense polygyny in a competitive arena. Am. J. Primatol. 73:679–691, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.