Female “dispersal” in hamadryas baboons: Transfer among social units in a multilevel society



Unlike most cercopithecines, hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) are characterized by female-biased dispersal. To clarify this pattern within the context of their hierarchical social system (comprising one-male units, clans, bands, and troops), we report here 7 years of data on female transfers among social units in wild hamadryas baboons in Ethiopia. Female tenure in one-male units (OMUs) ranged from 1 to 2,556 days (N = 208) and survival analysis revealed a median tenure length of 1,217 days (40 months). Changes in OMU membership consisted almost exclusively of takeovers by males, not voluntary transfer. Of 130 takeovers, 67% occurred within the band and 33% across bands, and, of the 22 takeovers for which we have clan membership data, 77% occurred within, not between, clans. These results reinforce the notion that hamadryas female dispersal is not analogous to sex-biased dispersal in other taxa, because (1) at least in Ethiopian populations, females do not disperse voluntarily but are transferred, often forcibly, by males; (2) only dispersal between bands will promote gene flow, whereas females are most often rearranged within bands; (3) hamadryas females undergo social dispersal but not usually locational dispersal; and (4) while male hamadryas are far more philopatric than females, they have been observed to disperse. It thus appears that the ancestral baboon pattern of female philopatry and male dispersal has evolved into a system in which neither sex is motivated to disperse, but females are forcibly transferred by males, leading to female-mediated gene flow, and males more rarely disperse to find females. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.