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There is a newly published paper by Andrew J. King and Guy Cowlishaw on factors that promote or constrain group synchronization among Chacma baboons (Papio ursinus) in central Namibia. The paper “All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons” is available online as pdf for free.

Female and infant Chacma baboon (Papio ursinus). Flickr photo from Arno & Louise.

Synchronized behavior is defined as behavior performed by individuals in unison. For example, you can say that a group of animals moving through its environment is synchronized in the direction of the movement. Or a group of animals feeding is synchronized in its behavior. Synchronized behavior has its costs and benefits. Group synchronization is costly to achieve, and according to this article, due to age – sex differences, morphological – physiological differences, heterogeneous feeding terrain and visual isolation between group members. The benefit of group synchronization increases foraging benefits and reduces predation risk. A large group who travels together can easily find food or spot predators.

An example of synchronized behavior. A group of baboons traveling in a synchronized direction in Tanzania. Photo from Hole In The Donut Travels.


Interestingly, this research found that the probability of the group to synchronize increases with the number of pregnant females in the group but decreases with the number of sexually swollen females in the group. They think that females that are sexually swollen are not shy about advertising their receptivity to the males in the group. The males, in turn, would zealously guard these sexually swollen females from other males thus disrupting behavioral synchronization. Pregnant females, on the other hand, promotes group synchronization because individuals are not fighting or distracted by mating opportunities.

Read more from the press release, Brazen Baboons: Flighty Females Disrupt Group Harmony.

References:

King, AJ. Cowlishaw, G. 2009. All together now: behavioural synchrony in baboons. Elsevier Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://static.zsl.org/files/king-cowlishaw-animal-behaviour-2009-910.pdf

PR.com. 2009. Brazen Baboons: Flighty Females Disrupt Group Harmony. Retrieved October 31, 2009, from http://www.pr.com/press-release/188486

Originally posted on The Prancing Papio.

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