Life history and the competitive environment: trajectories of growth, maturation, and reproductive output among Chacma baboons



The social environment is a key feature influencing primate life histories. Chacma baboons (Papio hamadryas ursinus) are a female-bonded species with a strict linear dominance hierarchy. In this species, the allocation of energy to competing demands of growth and reproduction is hypothesized to vary as a function of competitive ability, which in turn increases with social rank. Since growth rate is a major component of life history models, measures of age-specific growth were used to analyze variation in life history traits across social ranks. Weights of 42 immature baboons were obtained without sedation or baiting from a troop of well-habituated chacma baboons in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Using demographic and weight data from this wild population, five main findings emerged: 1) Weight for age and growth rate of infant and juvenile females are positively associated with maternal rank. 2) Male growth is not influenced by maternal rank. 3) Female growth shows smaller variation across feeding conditions than male growth. 4) Low-ranking adult females continue investment in offspring through prolonged lactation until they reach a weight comparable to that of high-ranking infants. 5) The benefit of rank to reproductive success shown in this study is 0.83 additional offspring. Reproductive span determined predominantly by age at maturation contributes 27–38% to the difference in expected number of offspring by rank, vs. 62–73% due to reproductive rate. These findings have major implications for understanding the role of social environment in phenotypic plasticity of life history traits, and in the evolution of primate life histories. Am J Phys Anthropol 120:83–98, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.