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Baboon Politics

January 1, 2009

Baboon society is far from democratic.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
The undemocratic world of baboons….I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Life just isn’t fair if you’re a baboon. Behavioral ecologist Andrew King of the Zoological Society of London and his team gave groups of wild baboons the choice between their regular food source, or higher quality food provided by the researchers. The catch? Only a few baboons could reach the good food at one time. King thought the baboons might cooperate with each other and choose the food that everyone could reach. But instead, they consistently congregated around the higher quality food.

ANDREW KING (Zoological Society of London ):
Baboons have a strict dominance hierarchy, so only the most dominant animals would be able to get onto this patch, and most of the individuals were excluded and they sat around on the edge waiting to get a turn if indeed they did get a turn.

HIRSHON:
King says the subordinates may be willing to forego their share because having the dominant male around provides protection from outside threats. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.