[monkeywire] Risky diddling bonds baboons
francisco at tweakfilms.com
Mon Nov 3 11:45:44 EST 2003
Risky diddling bonds baboons
Male apes share intense greetings only with close friends.
3 November 2003
Baboons demonstrate and test the strength of their relationship.
Want to show someone you really like them? Slap them in the face.
That, at least, seems to be the message of baboon salutations. The
closer the social bond between two animals, the more intrusive and
risky the greeting when they meet. For male Guinea baboons (Papio
papio), this involves ritualized fiddling with each other's genitals.
Baboons impose on each other to demonstrate and test the strength of
their relationship, says Jessica Whitham of the University of Chicago.
The hazards involved in such intimacy mean that only truly trusting
apes will get up close and personal, she says.
"Male baboons have a high potential for aggression. One bite to the
genitalia with sharp canines can effectively end a male's mating
career," says Whitham. She and her colleagues spent nearly 200 hours
over six months watching a colony of captive baboons at Chicago's
Penis and scrotum diddling is the culmination of a complex greeting
ritual that begins with face pulling and progresses through rump
presentation and embracing.
The baboons that were more likely to embrace or exchange diddles also
spent a lot of time together, and groomed one another frequently1.
Aggressive interactions led to frostier greetings.
Genital fiddling is unique to guinea baboons, but other primates invade
each other's space in similarly challenging ways. White-faced capuchin
monkeys, for example, stick their fingers up each other's noses in
But we shouldn't look for a human equivalent, says Whitham: "Most human
greetings do not carry the same potential costs as those exchanged
between adult male baboons."
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