Baboons who are more strongly bonded live longer lives

Baboon

A study published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B tells us that strong social bonds extends the lifespan of baboons. It applies to both males and females although it is easier to assess the effect on females because the males disappear to an unknown fate as they disperse.

Baboon

Baboon. Photo: Pixabay copyright free.

Also, higher dominance rank led to longer lives. The study supports what we already know with respect to humans. The baboon is the largest monkey species. It had been thought that they were obsessed with sex rather than long-term platonic relationships. The study found that baboons with an interest in bonding with others enjoyed a boost to their lifespan.

The scientist studied baboons in Amboseli National Park over 35 years. They found that male baboons who are happy to simply groom females and go no further live longer than those who were more isolated and/or preoccupied with sex.

They measured the strength of the bond between baboons of both sexes by timing how long they groomed each other. Mutual grooming for ticks and other parasites is a way for baboons to relieve stress and to bond. Male baboons do not groom each other. Males with a strong female friendship were 28% more likely to make it to the next birthday compared to their peers who were more isolated. Dr Alberts, one of the researchers, said that this translates into several years of a male’s life.

The overall conclusion is that both males and females who had stronger social bonds had an improved chance of survival. The study is the first to show that the lifespan of non-human primates are extended by strong social bonding.

Comment: the study, to me, does not clarify the position with respect to female bonding. Does the study refer to female-to-female bonding and female-to-male bonding? I suspect that it does. With respect to male baboons the study appears to only refer to males’ relationships with females. If you have read this and you are a retired man or woman feeling lonely, I would recommend that you get out there and try and make a friend! Just one friend means that you can go for a walk in the park together which is a double whammy in terms of health benefits. Connecting with nature with your best friends will extend your lifespan.An observation about the fact that male baboons do not groom each other: does this mean that there are no gay baboons? Or if there are does it mean that it is socially unacceptable for them to liaise with each other through mutual grooming? On Wikipedia, there is a long list of animals displaying homosexual behaviour. The list does not include baboons. It is conclusive that baboons cannot or are never homosexual?

You can click on this link if you want to read the study in full.