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Keywords:

  • hamadryas baboon;
  • life history;
  • sexual maturity;
  • male;
  • mating system

Abstract

We present data on sexual maturity in young hamadryas baboon males (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) and its reproductive consequences in a large captive baboon colony. Hamadryas baboons live in a multilevel social system, with one-male units (OMUs) as the smallest social entity. Male leaders of OMUs are believed to monopolize matings within their OMUs; hence mating is believed to be polygynous and monandrous. In a captive colony of hamadryas baboons, we found evidence that young males less than 4 years old fathered at least 2.5% of 121 offspring born subsequent to vasectomy of all adult males, and males aged 4–5 years fathered at least 16.5% of the offspring. Additional evidence that these young males are able to sire offspring came from a morphological comparison of sperm from hamadryas males of different ages. The sperm of a 48-month-old hamadryas baboon were morphologically indistinguishable from viable sperm from adult males, whereas sperm from a 45-month-old male showed some aberrations. If successful copulations by adolescent males constitute a regular pattern even in free-ranging hamadryas baboons, a hamadryas male's chances to reproduce would not be limited to his role as an OMU leader as previously assumed, and a male's reproductive career would consist of two phases: the adolescent phase, and the OMU leader male phase. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2006. © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.